Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third most common cause of death worldwide. Yet the way we treat patients hasn’t meaningfully changed in more than a decade.
This irreversible, often progressive airway disease doesn’t just affect the lungs; it affects the physical, mental and emotional well-being of patients, making it difficult for patients to go about their daily lives and engage socially.
In the early years of my career, during my medical training, and postgraduate training at the University of Connecticut Health Center including my years of practice of internal medicine, the progressive and intractable nature of COPD was very evident to me. It was not uncommon to see many of my patients with COPD end up in the ICU during acute exacerbations of their disease, often requiring intensive and expensive medical care.
Most patients continued on their trajectory of disease progression due to a multitude of complex factors – continued smoking despite a desire to quit, continued environmental exposure, socioeconomic factors, and a lack of new treatment options for over a decade.
RETHINKING THE SCIENCE
At Regeneron, we are innovating with urgency, in recognition of the pressing need for better scientific understanding of COPD and new potential treatment options.
Our recent work in this area with our partners at Sanofi suggests new understanding of this complex, heterogenous disease. While historically, COPD has primarily been viewed as progressively obstructive airway disease, with exacerbations mostly mediated by infections, our research shows that underlying chronic inflammation – specifically, a type of inflammation called type 2 inflammation – may play a major role in certain patients. The current standard of care helps patients manage symptoms and, in some instances, prevent exacerbations, but they often do not adequately address the underlying chronic lung inflammation.
The approach my team and I are taking therefore delves deeper into the biological drivers of COPD. Our unique approach looks to target a specific process in the body’s inflammatory response – type 2 inflammation. We believe that blocking this response may help improve airway obstruction, prevent exacerbations and prevent the decline in lung function and quality of life.
CHANGING THE LANDSCAPE FOR PATIENTS
As we expand scientific advancements in COPD, we know we must also work with COPD stakeholders to empower, educate and enable patients to attain optimal management of their disease. Our continued commitment to the respiratory and COPD community involves raising awareness about the underlying cause of COPD and its heterogeneity, urgently working with key stakeholders to support a policy environment that improves health outcomes, and helping to remove the stigma and blame that prevent people living with COPD from seeking or receiving care.
Change cannot come quickly enough for patients living with COPD. Our endeavors in COPD are immense, but it’s a worthy and necessary pursuit. The millions of patients living with COPD and their caregivers desperately need options to manage this disease, and we are committed to bringing a patient-centered, science-forward approach to tackle this urgent global health concern.