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Medications Used for COPD Treatment

Depending on the severity of your COPD, you doctor may recommend a number of medications as part of your COPD treatment, including:
  • Bronchodilators
  • Phosphodiesterase type-4 (PDE4) inhibitors 
  • Steroids
  • Flu shot
  • Pneumococcal vaccine.
Your doctor may recommend medications called bronchodilators as part of COPD treatment. Bronchodilators work by relaxing the muscles around your airways. They help open your airways quickly and make breathing easier.
Bronchodilators can be either short-acting or long-acting. Short-acting bronchodilators last about 4 to 6 hours and are used only when needed. Long-acting bronchodilators last about 12 hours or more and are used every day.
Most bronchodilator medications are inhaled, so they go directly into your lungs where they are needed. There are many kinds of inhalers, and it is important to know how to use your inhaler correctly.
If you have mild COPD, your doctor may recommend that you use a short-acting bronchodilator as part of your COPD treatment. You will then use the inhaler only when needed.
If you have moderate or severe COPD, your doctor may recommend regular treatment with one or more inhaled bronchodilators. You may be told to use one long-acting bronchodilator. Some people need to use a long-acting bronchodilator and a short-acting bronchodilator. This is called combination therapy.
PDE4 Inhibitors
There is one phosphodiesterase type-4 inhibitor approved for treating COPD -- Daliresp™ (roflumilast). Unlike most COPD medications, Daliresp is a tablet, not an inhaler, and is taken just once a day. Daliresp is specifically approved to prevent exacerbations in people with severe COPD associated with chronic bronchitis and a history of exacerbations.
Daliresp is not a "rescue medication" and should not be used to replace a rescue medication, such as a bronchodilator. Some of the most significant side effects noted with the drug include weight loss and, rarely, psychiatric problems such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts or actions.
Inhaled Glucocorticosteroids
For some people with moderate or severe cases, treating COPD involves inhaled steroids, which work to reduce airway inflammation. Your doctor may recommend that you try inhaled steroids for 6 weeks to 3 months to see if the medication is helping with your breathing problems.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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