What Is Asthma/COPD Overlap Syndrome?

MAY 24, 2017
Thomas Castles

Physicians have a lot of work to do if they want to provide better therapies for patients with both asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), also known as asthma/COPD overlap syndrome (ACOS), according to Amir Zeki, MD, MAS.

Asthma/COPD overlap is a condition that was identified in the 1960’s, but an agreed-upon definition of the condition, and the best approaches to treat it have eluded physicians since that time.

According to Zeki, physicians are unsure – or at least cannot come an agreement – if patients with ACOS, also known as overlappers, are simply affected by symptoms of both diseases or if they have a distinct condition.

There is also controversy over whether ACOS patients are at a higher risk for health problems than patients who only have one of the conditions, and whether ACOS is a legitimate, identifiable concern, Zeki said.

However, having cared for ACOS patients, Zeki said he believes they tend to be sicker, and that there are even commonalities between ACOS and conditions like diabetes, hypertension and obesity.

A better understanding of the disease could help physicians identify patients earlier and treat them more aggressively, which could translate into better outcomes, reduced symptoms and fewer hospitalizations. But that would take better controlled trials, Zeki said, and an internationally agreed-upon definition.

Soon, Zeki believes, ACOS will be replaced by a more accurate label like Obstructive Airway Disease (OAD). Once physicians can agree upon this and view findings from clinical trials, new therapies will emerge that will help ACOS patients manage their symptoms more effectively.


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