COPD overview

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an umbrella term used to describe chronic lung diseases in which breathing is severely restricted because of lung damage and inflammation, usually as a result of tobacco smoke. In non-smokers, COPD may be caused by occupational exposure to smoke, dust or chemicals.

COPD plagues more than 65 million people globally and is the third leading cause of death in the world, with only heart disease and stroke accounting for more deaths.1

A national problem

Chronic lower respiratory disease, primarily COPD, is already the third leading cause of death in the United States.2 In 2013, 15.7 million U.S. adults were estimated to have COPD;3 however, more than 24 million Americans have evidence of impaired lung function.4 At this rate, the number of worldwide deaths associated with COPD is predicted to increase by more than 30% over the next decade.5



The COPD challenge

In 2012, more than 1 million patients were admitted to U.S. hospitals suffering acute exacerbations of COPD making it one of the leading causes of adult hospitalizations.6 At an average of $11,195 per admission (and upwards of $40,000 should the patient need mechanical ventilation),6 the estimated cost to the US healthcare system is almost $50 billion dollars annually.7 Of the COPD patients who are hospitalized, approximately 22% are readmitted within 30 days,8 with each hospitalization placing a tremendous burden on patients and their families.

To address these costs, Medicare has added COPD to the list of diagnoses targeted for reductions in readmissions. Under the new policy, hospitals with high 30-day readmission rates for COPD exacerbations will be penalized with reduced reimbursement for treatment of Medicare beneficiaries. Hospitals, insurance providers, care providers and patients are all looking for better solutions to the long-term care and management of COPD patients.


  • 01

    World Health Organization. The top 10 causes of death: Fact sheet: N°310 (2012 statistics). 2014. (accessed October 7, 2015). Read reference

  • 02

    Hoyert DL and Xu JQ. Deaths: Preliminary data for 2011. Natl Vital Stat Rep 2012;61(6):1–65.

  • 03

    Wheaton AG et al. Employment and activity limitations among adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — United States 2013. CDC Morb Mortal Wkly Rep (MMWR) March 27, 2015;64(11):289-295.

  • 04

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Surveillance – United States, 1971-2000. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. August 2, 2002; 51(SS06):1-16.

  • 05 Accessed 10 Aug 2015.

  • 06

    Perera PN et al. Acute exacerbations of COPD in the United States: inpatient burden and predictors of cost and mortality. COPD 2012;9(2):131-144

  • 07

    Toy EL et al. The economic impact of exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and exacerbation definition: a review. COPD 2010;7(3):214-228

  • 08

    National Quality Forum #1891, October 26, 2012