Fighting COPD


Drug Store News recently talked with COPD Foundation founder and president John Walsh about the organization’s new leadership. In March, the COPD Foundation took over leadership for Drive4COPD, which aims to screen people for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a collective term for emphysema and chronic bronchitis, which the group estimates to affect 24 million Americans who may have it but don’t know it.


DSN: What led the COPD Foundation to take over Drive4COPD?


John Walsh: We’d been a founding partner of the campaign since it was launched in February 2010, and very active in helping to promote the campaign and working closely with Boehringer Ingelheim and other partners to expand the outreach for the campaign. We thought it was most naturally appropriate for the campaign to be operated from the foundation or another not-for-profit so that there could be a much broader appeal for stakeholders within the COPD community to participate, and that includes any pharmaceutical company, biotech company or any regular corporation not involved with pharmaceuticals, as well as all the professional societies related to treating COPD and patient-advocacy organizations.


DSN: How would you characterize BI’s relationship with it? I understand they’ll be funding it still. 


Walsh: Yes. So Boehringer Ingelheim is going to continue to support the campaign and participate on our steering committee. And as far as the governance of the campaign is [concerned], they’re still involved and actively supporting in the sense of providing resources to move the campaign forward. So Boeheringer Ingelheim remains committed to the success of the campaign ...


DSN: Now that the COPD Foundation is in charge, what kinds of changes will be made to how it’s run?


Walsh: We’ve organized a steering committee for appropriate governance. The steering committee reports up to our board of directors so we will be completely transparent as to what moneys are expended for what activities, and we will be aggressively pursuing additional funding to support the activities of the campaign. The campaign — as you’ve seen it with the pinwheel logo and the Drive4COPD affiliation with NASCAR — is going to remain intact. We’re going to take the campaign one or two steps further not only by making certain that the 12 million people in America that are symptomatic but not diagnosed, so essentially at risk, identify their risk level for COPD. 


And … through the simple five-question pop screener that you can take at Drive4COPD.org, we want to not only make sure that people take the pop screener and identify their risk level, but we’re [also] going to work very hard in trying to track the individual that’s at risk and make certain they get properly diagnosed. And if they’re diagnosed, [we want to] make certain that they’re aware that we’re a resource for them to learn more about living with COPD, to help them with their families and issues related to being diagnosed with COPD. 


DSN: What are some major upcoming plans that you have?


Walsh: We’re in the process of finalizing an employer toolkit, which we will launch in the next few months. The employer toolkit is essentially a toolkit that will be available on the Web, as well as in hard copy, that will have a cost calculator. Corporations will be able to log on and, by the skill level and industry and geographic location, be able to quantify how many people in their organization might be at risk for COPD and what the actual cost for having COPD is. We’re going to be working very closely with the wellness directors and the [human resource] departments to make certain that we get the simple population screener — the risk screener — in their annual health risk assessment in their wellness programs. We’re also going to be working with state respiratory societies to get respiratory therapists in there with the spirometry testing for individuals with COPD and be there as a resource to both the employer and the employees as they’re diagnosed.


DSN: What are some things that retailers, especially pharmacy retailers, can do to participate in the campaign?


Walsh: We’re going to be reaching out very aggressively to all the pharmacy retailers to invite them to partner with us in this campaign. Flu season in the fall is a perfect example where we’d like to piggyback with the flu shots and the flu-shot campaigns. Everybody with COPD has a high risk level for influenza, [and we want] to make certain that [pharmacists] take advantage of getting all the patients that they have on products that treat COPD to get their flu shots. Also looking at [things that exacerbate] frequent infections to work with the pharmacists and have them help identify somebody who might be at risk. Obviously [we want to be] able to distribute at a point of sale the information to access the five simple questions and get as many Americans as possible to identify their risk level, and be there as a resource whether it’s on our website or on our information line, (866) 316-COPD. They can take the screener over the phone or on the website, identify their risk level, and know whether or not they need to make certain to get to their healthcare professional.

To listen to the full audio Q&A, click here.