Research Funding for COPD

Not so long ago, I remember one of my doctors (I seem to have a bunch these days - lol) telling me that COPD was the third or fourth leading cause of death behind (#1) heart disease, (#2) cancer and (#3) Alzheimer’s.

I was unfamiliar with COPD at first

I was semi-surprised. I had never heard of the disease I now live with until I was infected with it.

Bronchitis and emphysema, I knew because I came from a large family of smokers. But it took me a few months to remember what the acronym stood for. “ something or other”

And the definition I found didn’t necessarily assist me in remembering: “COPD is a cluster of airway conditions that fall under the term chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”

Airway conditions? Does that mean my flight is going to be late?

COPD is underfunded for research

I’m being semi-facetious, of course, but I don’t think I’m alone in that ignorance. Nor do I think that it helps our cause that COPD is a semi-ambiguous medical term. Heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s – all, unfortunately are known to the average American. But mention COPD and most folks will have to have it explained to them.

I believe that’s part of the reason that, even though it’s #3 or sometimes #4 in the top 10 causes of death here in the United States and internationally and is estimated to be the cause of 3.17 million global deaths every year1, COPD is desperately underfunded for research2, especially when compared with other “killers.”

Explanation for COPD funding from the NIH

If you look at the research page of National Institute of Health (NIH) website1, you’ll find this funding explanation:

“NIH provides leadership and financial support to researchers in every state and throughout the world. Each year, Federal funds are obligated by Congress for the pursuit of research objectives. Each Institute (there are 27 spread throughout the country) determines how to allocate its own funds among many different activities of science.”

Top causes of death and funding information

If you go a little further into the site, you’ll see that COPD is not listed on the searchable NIH Health Topics page. What is listed is heart disease, cancer, sleep, diabetes, depression, obesity, stroke and asthma.

A chart showing the top 10 global causes of death from 2016. COPD is the third leading cause

A chart showing how much money in research was spent on Heart Disease, Alzheimers, and COPD
No one wants to see scarce research dollars being moved from one category of disease to another. Those suffering from other diseases are as needy as we are for research to find a cure.

What needs to happen is that new research dollars need to be identified and distributed by need.

I’m not certain that this is 100% correct, but it seems that the National Institute of Health (NIH) determines where much of the money associated with research is dedicated.

There are COPD organizations that have begun to address the disparity in funding.

I hope to be writing about them and what they’re doing when I write again.


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