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Airway diseases

Research at The University of Manchester has led to safer, more effective and better-targeted treatments for patients suffering from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The findings of one study alone, on house dust mite avoidance in asthma, is estimated to have prevented patients and health services worldwide from wasting billions of pounds on treatments that were shown not to work.

Professor Ashley Woodcock and colleagues have conducted over 250 clinical trials since 1993, which have formed the basis for the modern management of asthma and COPD across the globe.

As a result of this work, there has been a step change worldwide in the treatment and care of patients - and a major impact on the wider environmental consequences of treatment.

Research conducted in Manchester has resulted in:

  • The development and sales of over 15 different inhaled medicines to the market.
  • The switch to CFC-free inhalers for over 200 million patients. The first CFC-free inhalers were tested in Manchester.
  • The publication of leading international guidelines that influence better diagnosis and management of airways diseases.
  • The discovery of new and more effective drugs, in collaboration with industrial partners.

The team also led one of the world's largest COPD studies, involving over 2,000 patients over three years.

As a member of the International Panel for Climate Change, Professor Woodcock shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. This recognised the huge global environmental impact of his research on phasing out CFCs from inhalers by 2015.

Asthma and COPD together affect over 10% of the world's population. An estimated 300 million individuals worldwide have asthma; COPD affects 210 million and is the third commonest cause of death worldwide.

"At the same time as developing new treatments, we've tried to improve the environment, so we work with the Montreal Protocol to try and protect the ozone layer, to take CFC out of inhalers, to make sure that they are safe and deliver them through to patient benefit."

Ashley Woodcock / Professor of Respiratory Medicine