Several different medications are available for COPD, and many people require more than one to treat their symptoms. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your healthcare provider may recommend using bronchodilators, steroids, antibiotics, or immunizations. Some medicines are taken on a daily basis, while others are only taken when symptoms of COPD become exacerbated.
An Overview of Medicines for COPDChronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease in which the lungs are damaged, leading to long-term breathing problems. With COPD, the airways (the tubes that carry air into and out of the lungs) are partly obstructed, making it difficult to breathe. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are two kinds of COPD. While smoking is the most common cause, there are other possible causes of COPD.
Depending on the severity of your condition, your healthcare provider may recommend a number of drugs as part of your COPD treatment, including:
- Bronchodilators (medications to open the airways)
- Steroids (including inhaled steroids)
- Phosphodiesterase type-4 (PDE4) inhibitors
In addition to being COPD drugs, most (but not all) of these medicines are also commonly used to treat asthma. Please note that some of the medications mentioned in this article, while sometimes used for COPD treatment, are not officially approved to treat COPD. They were approved as asthma medications.
Bronchodilators are medications that work by opening up the airways, usually by relaxing the muscles of the airways. A few different types of bronchodilators are used as COPD medications, including:
- Short-acting beta agonists, such as:
- Long-acting beta agonists (some which come in combination with a steroid or anticholinergic drug), such as:
- Arformoterol (Brovana®)
- Indacaterol maleate (Arcapta™)
- Vilanterol/fluticasone (Breo® Ellipta™) or vilanterol/umeclidinium (Anoro™ Ellipta™)
- Formoterol (Foradil®, Perforomist®), formoterol/budesonide (Symbicort®), or formoterol/mometasone (Dulera®)
- Salmeterol (Serevent®) or salmeterol/fluticasone (Advair®)
- Anticholinergic bronchodilators, such as:
- Theophylline (Elixophyllin®, Theo-24®, TheoCap™, Theochron®, Uniphyl®).
Short-acting beta-agonists are often used on an "as needed" basis, while long-acting beta agonists are usually taken regularly every day.
Typically, an anticholinergic medication (aclidinium, ipratropium, or tiotropium) should be the first medication tried. If necessary, a beta agonist may be added.