Research has indicated that a condition called pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) affects between 500-1,000 people each year. Furthermore, most of the patients are young women between the ages of 20 and 40.
While the numbers may not seem significant, the disease itself has been a paradox for physician-researchers since in many cases, the causes of PAH remain unknown.
As the month of November kicks off PH Awareness Month, Dr. Ronald Oudiz - lead investigator at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) - hopes to bring greater awareness to this disorder that has affected the lives of so many. Dr. Oudiz is a pioneer in this field, having received the 2011 Award for Excellence earlier this year from the Pulmonary Hypertension Association for his dedication to find new ways to treat this often fatal disease.
PAH is an increase in blood pressure in the pulmonary artery, pulmonary vein or pulmonary capillaries that can lead to shortness of breath, dizziness or fainting. At its worst, PAH can be a severe disease with a markedly decreased exercise tolerance and can lead to heart failure and death. Most recently, Dr. Oudiz applied the concept of cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) as a way to noninvasively measure physiologic changes at rest and during exercise that are reflective in abnormalities of PAH, heart failure, and various lung diseases. He is one of the first physician-researchers to apply this concept to PAH patients.
"Pulmonary hypertension is still considered a rare disease, impacting less than 200,000 people worldwide," said Dr. Oudiz. "Over the last decade, however, there have been significant advances in diagnosing and treating patients both through exercise and with the proper medication, and it is my goal to not only increase awareness but also to improve the lives of patients diagnosed with PAH."
In a recent study, Dr. Oudiz and his team of researchers looked at the long-term effects of medication in the treatment of PAH and discovered that certain medications can help improve the health of PAH patients. Dr. Oudiz found that the health and exercise capacity of PAH patients improved after two years of treatment with an FDA-approved drug called ambrisentan, an orally-active, once-daily medication that helps improve exercise capacity, as well as other clinical indications of PAH disease severity, including clinical worsening.
Dr. Oudiz currently serves as the director of LA BioMed's PH Clinical Trials Center, where he and his team engage patients in exercise therapy, provide educational literature and videos to patients and their families, and continue to study novel therapies for PH. Dr. Oudiz is also a member of several steering committees that are helping to design multi-center clinical trials involving worldwide PH centers, whose common goal is to find better ways to take care of their patients.
For PH Awareness Month, LA BioMed's PH Clinical Trials Center will host group meetings and bring in guest speakers to give patients hope, a sense of camaraderie, and much-needed support as they find ways to cope with this debilitating disease.