Addressing the Burden of Non-Cystic Fibrosis Bronchiectasis

By: Aleksandra Vlajnic, M.D., Vice President Medical Affairs, Bayer

Non-Cystic Fibrosis Bronchiectasis, commonly referred to as bronchiectasis, is a rare, chronic respiratory disease that affects approximately 110,000 patients in the U.S.,¹ and can be difficult to diagnose.² Often misdiagnosed as another respiratory condition such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), patients with bronchiectasis can live for years before getting an accurate diagnosis and the care they need. Many doctors are unfamiliar with this condition and patients often lack the awareness to identify the symptoms. An accurate diagnosis can bring great relief for these patients who are desperate to simply know what’s wrong with them.

Although the patient population may be small, the burden is certainly not. Bronchiectasis patients can experience daily symptoms that worsen with flare-ups known as exacerbations, and can eventually lead to reduced lung function, hospitalization, and higher mortality rates.³ Because of symptom progression, patients face a long and challenging journey. Beyond the physical symptoms, research shows that patients with bronchiectasis may also experience an impact on their quality of life both psychologically and socially because of the disease.⁴

While at this year’s annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST), we had the opportunity to connect with, and listen to, healthcare professionals on the frontlines of caring for patients who struggle daily living with bronchiectasis.

Christa, a woman living with bronchiectasis, spoke during a symposium at this year’s conference. For Christa, the physical symptoms of the disease have led to an equally challenging emotional impact. What started as pneumonia progressively got worse and led to frequent and unpredictable exacerbations that included severe coughing, difficulty breathing and dizziness. It took several years of living with these symptoms before she was officially diagnosed with bronchiectasis. For her, the unpredictability of her symptoms makes it nearly impossible to plan in advance, not to mention the embarrassment she feels when experiencing an exacerbation of uncontrollable coughing in public. Christa noted that the feeling of isolation has become a major burden, often preventing her from living her life the way she did before she started experiencing the debilitating symptoms of bronchiectasis.

There is a lot more work to be done for patients like Christa. Although there are currently no approved treatments for bronchiectasis in the U.S., there has recently been renewed interest in finding therapies to help manage this disease. Currently, a number of therapies are undergoing testing in clinical trials.

At Bayer, patients are our priority and we are committed to addressing the unmet medical need in rare disease including bronchiectasis. As we continue to expand our rare disease franchise, particularly through our presence at these meetings, we strive to be among the leaders in the space, bringing the best possible care to patients.

[1] Novosad SA et al. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and bronchiectasis. Curr Opin Pum Med. 2013;19(2):133–139.

[2] Chalmers JD et al. The Bronchiectasis Severity Index: an international derivation and validation study. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2014;189(5):576–85.

[3] Martinez-Garcia MA, Soler-Cataluna J, Perpina-Tordera M, et al. Factors associated with lung function decline in adult patients with non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis. Chest. 2007;132(5):1565–72.

[4] Spinou A, Patel A, Garrod R, et al. Understanding patients’ experiences of living with non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis. European Respiratory Society. 2013; Abstract 2463.