Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

What is COPD?

What is it

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive disease that makes it increasingly harder to breathe over time. Although symptoms can be mild initially, over time chronic fatigue and breathlessness can severely limit physical activity and interfere with everyday tasks.  Depression, anxiety, and hopelessness are commonly experienced by COPD patients. COPD is the third leading cause of death in America and leads to significant disability. Currently there is no cure but early diagnosis and treatment can enable patients to remain independent, prevent complications and exacerbations, and improve quality of life. Medication adherence plays a vital role in treating COPD, resulting in a need for healthcare models that focus on improving patient medication compliance. Improved medication compliance in COPD patients will reduce risk for future events, improve patient outcomes and reduce overall healthcare costs.  


The APhA Foundation convened a Coordinating Council to design various strategies to integrate the pharmacist into community- based collaborative efforts to improve the care for patients with COPD on October 22–23, 2009 in Arlington, VA. Participants included physicians, pharmacists, payers, respiratory therapists, nurses, and patient organization representatives.


  • To generate discussion about the role of the pharmacist in supporting patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
  • To provide practical recommendations on how pharmacists can work with employers and other health care providers to improve patient outcomes
  • To develop a pharmacist based service offering for patients with COPD



The Council agreed that access in the community (often 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) combined with extensive clinical knowledge makes pharmacists uniquely capable of helping those with chronic disease, especially patients with COPD who require monitoring and encouragement throughout their lifelong treatment. A white paper on COPD was created to serve as a guide to pharmacists, other healthcare providers, payers and most importantly patients and families to better access and utilize pharmacists’ services. The white paper details a model for collaborative care that could improve the health of people who suffer from COPD.


Read the full white paper here.

Looking to the Future

Medication adherence is critically important for patients with COPD. The COPD white paper is the first step in transforming the healthcare system so pharmacists can perform medication- and wellness-related interventions necessary to improve patient health outcomes and reduce the number of deaths from COPD. If you are interested in implementing the care model through a COPD demonstration project, contact us to learn more about What You Can Do.