To help mark IPF World Week from Sept. 16 to 24, the company has created several educational tools to help doctors identify the characteristics of IPF and promote a prompt and accurate diagnosis of the disorder. One is an app that helps doctors recognize the sounds of lungs with the disease.
“Time is of essence,” Ivan Blanarik, senior vice president and head of the therapeutic respiratory program at Boehringer Ingelheim, said in a press release. “If patients can be diagnosed” in a timely manner and “referred to an expert pulmonologist to initiate treatment at the earliest opportunity, we stand a greater chance of making a real difference in the ongoing challenge of managing this devastating disease.”
“We need to raise awareness for IPF and act together to help patients and their families,” he added.
IPF is a complex disease that can be difficult to diagnose. Shortness of breath and dry cough are two of the early symptoms, but they can be misinterpreted because they are symptoms of other respiratory illnesses as well.
One sign can be found in more than 80 of IPF patients, however: velcro crackles. These are sounds from the lungs of IPF patients that doctors can hear with a stethoscope. Fast and accurate identification of the sounds can lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment.
Boehringer Ingelheim has developed a virtual application, the IPF Sound Challenge, that allows physicians to practice their hearing skills. The app reproduces sounds from both healthy and diseased lungs that doctors can hear with a stethoscope. Additional information on the application can be found at the website inIPF.com.
“IPF is a disease with an unpredictable course where exacerbations can occur at any time without warning,” said Professor Toby Maher of Royal Brompton Hospital. “Clinical trials have shown us that patients without treatment lose lung function even when their disease is in the earliest stages.”
“Antifibrotic treatment can reduce this decline by approximately 50 percent,” he said. “Any delay in initiating treatment puts patients at risk of irreversible loss of lung capacity.”
Information collected from two global surveys sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim, which included about 400 doctors and 150 patients, showed that maintaining lung function is a priority for those with IPF. But 30 percent of patients feel they do not play a big enough role in treatment strategy discussions.
“What I hear loud and clear from patients is that a key concern for them is getting a confirmed diagnosis,” said Liam Galvin, secretary of the European Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and Related Disorders Federation. “Next is talking with their physician about treatment that can slow the progression of IPF.
“The realization that you have IPF is shattering, and patients have to think about their future: They worry about lung function decline and they fear acute exacerbations.” Galvin said.
Boehringer Ingelheim has also created a Life with IPF platform. It provides support, information, and answers to patients’ and caregivers’ questions about the disease. At LifewithIPF.com, one can find educational materials, patients’ stories, and webinars with pulmonologists.