(Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder)

Disease background

COPD collectively refers to a group of diseases including emphysema and chronic bronchitis reflecting irreversible loss of airways function that can ultimately result in death. The disease is characterized by chronic inflammation, excessive mucus production and a progressive loss of alveolar (air sac) structure in addition to systemic complications such as decline in muscle mass and inflammation, chronic cough and dyspnoea. The greatest risk factor is cigarette smoke (some 80% of COPD patients) although only approximately 15% of smokers develop COPD. Underlying genetic predisposition remains to be fully characterized, and there is a significant involvement of particulate matter in diesel fuels and air pollutants, as well as asthma in the non-smoking population.

Medical Need

COPD affects mainly the adult population and those with significant smoking history. An estimated 20-40% of the population of the 6 main countries (approximately 40 million worldwide) is affected although there has been significantly less attention paid to this disease thus diagnosis rates are low (but increasing) and a certain nihilistic approach to therapy has been noted. Currently a global economic burden of $15 billion dollars, it is anticipated that COPD will become the 3rd leading cause of death worldwide by 2020. In 2003, the estimated market for COPD drugs was over $3 billion. Current therapies are based mainly upon anti-inflammatory drugs developed for asthma (e.g. corticosteroids) which are often ineffective in reducing the inflammation and airway lung function decline. As such there is a considerably high unmet medical need for effective disease modifying therapies that target the underlying pathophysiology of COPD. Especially critical is the need for compounds that not only halt the destructive inflammation but reverse the progressive loss of cells and tissue leading to loss of alveolar structure in the lower airways.