That’s according to Gabriel Ortiz, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA, a speaker at the Cardiovascular & Respiratory Summit by Global Academy for Medical Education.
There are several treatment options available in inhaler form for patients with COPD, including short-acting and long-acting beta2-agonists (SABA/LABA), short-acting and long-acting antimuscarinics (SAMA/LAMA), combination therapy, and triple therapy. But education and training on how to use an inhaler is also important, Mr. Ortiz said in his presentation.
Providers should help a patient choose an inhaler they are most likely to use. “It’s difficult to actuate and inhale, so there’s a lot of education that goes into that,” said Mr. Ortiz, of Pediatric Pulmonary Services in El Paso, Texas. “What we do for our patients is, we educate them, we tell them to demonstrate it, then bring [the] inhaler back on the next visit and demonstrate to us every time.”
“Make sure that they demonstrate because, as patients get older, they may lose their ability to actuate and inhale,” he added.
Adherence to therapy should also be considered before changing from a current therapy, he added. Mr. Ortiz described a scenario in which a prescription was filled, but because of the cost, the patient reduced the dose by half to make the therapy last longer.
“We could be the best providers in the world, prescribing the best medication in the world. If the medication doesn’t get to where we need it, it’s not going to help anybody,” he said.
Providers should also use nonpharmacological treatments to prevent or keep COPD from progressing. Smoking cessation is key to reducing the risk of developing COPD, and it is not clear whether e-cigarettes aid in smoking cessation, despite companies that market these products making that claim. “We have a huge e-cigarette epidemic here,” he said.
Instead, Mr. Ortiz recommended identifying which patients are current tobacco users, encouraging them to quit, determining whether the patient is willing to make a commitment to cut down on tobacco use or stop entirely, helping draft a quit plan and obtaining intra- and extratreatment social support for smoking cessation, and scheduling follow-up. Providers should discuss smoking cessation at each visit, and it may take multiple visits before a patient is willing to consider quitting, he said.
Another measure providers can take is making sure patients with COPD have received influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations because this can lower the risk of respiratory tract infections. Physical activity, training in exercise, nutritional support, and pulmonary rehabilitation can improve their health status, dyspnea, and exercise tolerance. While C-level evidence shows education alone is not effective according to Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease () guidelines, providers working with patients through self-management interventions have been shown to improve health status and decrease COPD-related hospitalizations.
Oxygen therapy has been effective for patients with severe resting chronic hypoxia and improves survival, said Mr. Ortiz. For patients who gradually decline in health despite treatment, palliative, hospice, and end-of-life care may be an option. “Remember that as acute exacerbations continue, that increases the risk of death,” he said. “We want to try and prevent [those] exacerbations and improve quality of life.”
During follow-up visits, providers should continue performing spirometry tests annually to measure decline in forced expiratory volume in 1 second, information on symptoms that have presented since the previous visit, details of any exacerbations that occurred, and current smoking status. When making decisions to adjust therapy, providers should examine the effectiveness of the current regimen and consider the dose of prescribed medications, whether the patient is adhering to the regimen, inhaler technique, and any side effects.
Mr. Ortiz reports also being a paid employee for Thermo Fisher, a biotechnology product development company based in Waltham, Mass. Global Academy for Medical Education and this news organization are owned by the same parent company.