The number of people worldwide who suffer from incurable pulmonary diseases such as asthma and COPD continues to grow. More than one million people are afflicted in the Netherlands alone. Although lung diseases do not have a particularly high profile, they have a huge impact on both society and the well-being of patients.
In the Netherlands, 600,000 people currently suffer from asthma, of whom 100,000 children. Because their lungs are chronically irritated, they often have problems breathing. Asthma can be suppressed by medicines; however, these remedies only address the symptoms and not the chronic inflammation. As a result, more than 4000 children are admitted to hospital each year.
Furthermore, asthma is a growing problem: more and more children are diagnosed as suffering from this disease. In the Netherlands alone, 32,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.
In addition, 600,000 people suffer from COPD in the Netherlands. Each year, 7,000 Dutch citizens die as a result of complications caused by COPD. This number is also on the increase. The World Health Organization predicts that COPD will be the 3rd leading cause of death worldwide in 2030. People suffering from COPD are continuously starved of oxygen because their lungs are damaged beyond repair. The current medications and therapies focus on trying to keep the lungs healthy for as long as possible. Even so, more and more lung tissue is slowly lost as COPD progresses. Many patients become dependent on extra oxygen. Sometimes, a lung transplant is their only hope.
Pulmonary diseases such as asthma and COPD do not only have a major impact on patients’ lives. The widespread nature of these pulmonary diseases also has a huge impact on society. The annual costs associated with asthma amount to more than 1 billion euros in the Netherlands. This figure breaks down as 243 million euros for direct healthcare costs, and a further 828 million euros for the indirect costs of sickness absence. The annual costs associated with COPD amount to more than 1 billion euros in the Netherlands. This figure breaks down as 968 million euros for direct healthcare costs, and a further 169 million euros for the indirect costs of work disability and sickness absence.