Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one of the most common causes of mortality and a major contributor to morbidity. Longitudinal clinical practice data yielding information on the characteristics of the disease, its natural course, and management are limited.
Aims: To investigate and describe the COPD population from a nationwide perspective during an 11-year period (1999-2009) with a focus on management, co-morbidity, and mortality.
Methods: This observational retrospective epidemiological study linked electronic medical records data from patients with COPD in primary care to mandatory Swedish hospital, drug and Cause of Death registry data from 1999 to 2009 (PATHOS).
Results: A total of 21,361 patients with a COPD diagnosis were included (mean age 68.0 years, 53% females). The proportion of patients diagnosed in primary care increased from 59% in 1999 to 81% in 2009 and the mean age at diagnosis decreased from 73 to 66 years. The number of exacerbations decreased from 3.0 to 1.3 and COPD-related hospitalisations decreased from 1.02 to 0.20 per patient per year. Prescriptions of long-acting muscarinic antagonists and fixed combinations of inhaled corticosteroid/long-acting β2-agonist inhalers increased from 0% to 36% and 37%, respectively. The most common co-morbidities were hypertension, heart failure, ischaemic heart disease, and diabetes. Overall life expectancy was 8.3±6.8 years shorter in patients with COPD than in the general population, and all- cause mortality was 3.5 times higher.
Conclusions: Management of COPD in Sweden has improved during the 11-year study period. Despite this, patients with COPD have a substantially reduced life expectancy than the general population.