RIVERSIDE, Calif. (Aug. 29, 2005)—Representatives from Luxfer Gas Cylinders joined doctors, clinicians, patients and experts from all areas of long-term oxygen therapy (LTOT) at the Sixth Oxygen Consensus Conference in Denver, Colo., Aug. 25-28.
Conference attendees discussed problems confronting LTOT patients and developed action plans for addressing the problems. The five previous oxygen consensus conferences, which took place between 1986 and 2000, have stimulated development of oxygen standards and other improvements for oxygen therapy.
An estimated 14 to 16 million Americans suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and approximately 10 percent require home oxygen therapy to treat chronically low oxygen levels in the blood. Lack of proper oxygen intake can result in diminished brain function and, over time, can cause many of the same symptoms as Alzheimer’s disease, including confusion and forgetfulness.
COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and one of the few chronic diseases with growing prevalence and mortality rates. The disease claims more than 120,000 lives annually. About 85 to 90 percent of COPD cases develop as a direct result of cigarette smoking. Other factors include environmental pollution and genetic predisposition to the disease.
Existing medications seldom reverse the effects of COPD. Long-term oxygen therapy, when properly prescribed and maintained, is the only non-surgical therapy clinically proven to extend the lives of patients with COPD and low blood-oxygen levels. In addition to prolonging life, LTOT improves the quality of life for many patients who use oxygen-dispensing units in homes and vehicles.
Obstacles to effective treatment of COPD include reductions in Medicare coverage of oxygen for LTOT, outdated research and lack of doctor and patient education.
Goals for the conference included:
Creating greater awareness among consumers and the medical community about the complex nature and important benefits of long-term oxygen therapy, as well as the technology options currently available and being developed.
Promoting earlier testing of older Americans for low blood-oxygen. Early treatment provides patients with a greater chance of living longer, more active lives.
Achieving better federal and state policies to strengthen patient access to oxygen through Medicare and Medicaid. Provisions in the 2003 prescription drug bill reduced reimbursement rates for oxygen and oxygen equipment, which may be hindering access to oxygen therapy.
Other conference participants included leaders from the American College of Physicians, the American College of Chest Physicians, the American Thoracic Society, the American Association for Respiratory Care, the American Association for Homecare, patient advocacy groups, oxygen providers, oxygen equipment manufacturers and third-party payers.