- COPD, asthma, respiratory allergies, and occupational lung diseases represent a major public health problem in developing countries including MENA countries because of their high frequency and their social and economic impacts
United Arab Emirates, Dubai - Boehringer Ingelheim, one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies recently held its 2nd regional respiratory forum under the theme of 'Innovative Solutions to Help Millions'. The event served as a platform for leading medical professionals from Europe, Middle East and Africa to shed light on clinical management practices of diagnosis and misdiagnosis as well as challenges towards controlling the prevalence of respiratory diseases across the region.
Respiratory problems in the Middle East can be unique and cover a wide variety of pulmonary disorders due to a number of factors such as smoking, extreme weather variations, as well as genetic conditions to name a few. The prevalence of smoking and obesity has reached alarming heights in the region and the associated lung diseases present a major health burden to the medical system. 
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is not one single disease but an umbrella term used to describe chronic lung diseases that cause limitations in lung airflow. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a number of risk factors contribute to individuals developing COPD, which include tobacco smoking, indoor and outdoor air pollution as well as being exposed to occupational dusts and chemicals. The disease represents a major health concern for developing countries and is ranked as the fourth leading cause of death worldwide, and is expected to become the third leading cause by the year 2030.
Dr. Bassam Mahboub, MD FRCPC, Consultant Pulmonologist and Head of Pulmonary Medicine at Rashid Hospital said, "Our data suggests that across the MENA region, around 40 million individuals are currently suffering from multiple respiratory diseases. More than 60%-70% of patients diagnosed with a respiratory illness are under the age of 40, where smokers make up 30% of the patients. As such, 60 million people across this region alone are strong candidates for developing respiratory diseases. Smokers, usually, they visit the doctor to see whether they have heart problems or not, or they have cancer or not. They are totally, absolutely clueless about COPD Moreover, smokers, usually visit the doctor complaining from heart problems or even cancer. They're not aware of the prevalence of COPD."
About 3.7 per cent of the UAE population suffers from COPD, according to a 2011 study by Zayed Military Hospital, Dr Mahboub saidDr. Mahboub added, "About 3.7% of the UAE population suffers from COPD according to a 2011 study by Zayed Military Hospital. COPD cannot be cured, but medication can slow down the progress of the disease and ease off symptoms."
Moreover, during the event, doctors also highlighted the region's increased prevalence of asthma incidents. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways affecting more than 300 million people worldwide. It can cause considerable burden on the physical, social, emotional, and professional lives of affected individuals and family.
It affects all ages and both genders. The prevalence of asthma varies between 1-18% in different countries across the world. There is also a changing prevalence in countries over the past few years, which attributed to the change in awareness and diagnostic practices for the disease. In Saudi Arabia, the prevalence rate reached 23.6%, in Qatar it was 19.8% while that in Oman, the prevalence rate varied between 7.8% to 17.3% in different regions.
Dr. David Halpin, MD, Consultant Physician & Honorary Associate Professor in Respiratory Medicine at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital said, "Asthma can be controlled with modern inhaled drugs, but remains a serious condition if not controlled well and early and accurate diagnoses are important. It is important for health authorities across the region to develop national strategies and action plans to improve asthma management and reduce costs, while also ensuring availability of national appropriate asthma management guidelines. It is necessary to increase the awareness among patients and update doctors about asthma control guidelines for attaining optimal asthma control, and thus reducing the burden of the disease."
"The impact of asthma in the MENA is heavy and requires immediate action especially to increase awareness and overall understanding of chronic respiratory diseases amongst healthcare workers, healthcare providers, and governments," added Dr. Halpin.
Dr. Toby Maher, MD, Consultant Physician at Royal Brompton Hospital, London and Senior Lecturer at the National heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College, London said, "Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) occurs when scar tissue builds up in the lungs and becomes thick and hard, making breathing difficult. The key challenge that we must address is finding new avenues to create comprehensive awareness programs across the region to educate both patients as well as healthcare professionals about the dangers of IPF. There's been a real increase in the number of new cases of IPF over the last 20 years or so. Almost everyone with the disease will die, either as a consequence of respiratory failure due to the IPF itself or to do with a complication of it such as pneumonia or heart failure."
The forum took place in the presence of leading regional and international respiratory experts who were engaged in interactive sessions and workshops to shed light on latest medical and scientific insights on treatment and management of respiratory diseases. Doctors from the UAE, KSA, UK, Morocco, South Africa, and Italy stressed on the importance of early detection of the symptoms and proper adherence to treatment protocols.
About Boehringer Ingelheim
Boehringer Ingelheim is one of the world's 20 leading pharmaceutical companies. Headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany, Boehringer Ingelheim operates globally through 145 affiliates and a total of some 47,500 employees. The focus of the family-owned company, founded in 1885, is on researching, developing, manufacturing and marketing new medications of high therapeutic value for human and veterinary medicine.
Social responsibility is an important element of the corporate culture at Boehringer Ingelheim. This includes worldwide involvement in social projects through, for example, the initiative "Making More Health" while also caring for employees. Respect, equal opportunity and reconciling career and family form the foundation of mutual cooperation. The company also focuses on environmental protection and sustainability in everything it does.
In 2015, Boehringer Ingelheim achieved net sales of about 14.8 billion euros. R&D expenditure corresponds to 20.3 per cent of net sales.
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© Press Release 2016