Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of common and progressive lung conditions. It is characterised by coughing that produces large amounts of mucus, difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath, and other respiratory symptoms. Risk factors for the disease include smoking tobacco, long-term exposure to chemicals and dust fumes, and asthma. According to the World Health Organization, COPD is the third leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for over 3.2 million deaths in 2019. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Martinez and colleagues found that as part of a clinical study in the US, the CAPTURE (COPD Assessment in Primary Care to Identify Undiagnosed Respiratory Disease and Exacerbation Risk) screening tool was able to successfully identify previously undiagnosed primary care patients in the US with moderate to severe COPD. GlobalData epidemiologists expect that diagnosed prevalent cases of COPD will likely increase over the coming years as the CAPTURE tool is more widely utilized.

The study by Martinez and colleagues evaluated the sensitivity and specificity of the CAPTURE screening tool. The CAPTURE tool comprises a patient-completed questionnaire in addition to a peak expiratory flow test, which measures the amount of air expelled by a person in one second. The tool can distinguish cases and control subjects with a high level of precision, suggesting this may be a suitable approach for COPD case identification in primary care settings. The study enrolled 4,325 US primary care patients aged 45–80 years without prior COPD diagnosis between 2018–22. Each individual was examined for COPD, resulting in the identification of 110 patients with previously undiagnosed and clinically significant COPD. Of this group, 53 individuals had a positive CAPTURE screening result. Overall, the study found that the CAPTURE screening tool had a low sensitivity (48.2%) but a high specificity (88.6%) for identifying clinically significant COPD. According to GlobalData’s forecast, in the US, there will be over 15 million diagnosed prevalent cases of COPD in 2023. If the CAPTURE tool were to be implemented widely, the number of diagnosed prevalent cases would rise considerably by identifying previously undiagnosed cases.

Currently, there is no cure available, but there are a number of treatment options that can help to alleviate symptoms and control disease progression. In addition to stopping smoking, the use of an inhaler or tablets can help to make breathing easier for COPD sufferers. Pulmonary rehabilitation is available in the UK and includes a full program of exercise, education, and dietary support. Finally, in a small proportion of cases that are unable to control symptoms with medicine, surgery or a lung transplant is an option.

As a screening tool, CAPTURE has the potential to identify previously undiagnosed patients, allowing patients to start treatment at an earlier stage of their illness. This is likely to promote better health outcomes and reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with the disease. Further research is needed to assess the screening tool’s performance and to understand how its use will affect clinical outcomes.

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