A variety of medications are available for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Common COPD medications include bronchodilators, steroids, antibiotics, and immunizations. If your current medication is not adequately controlling your COPD symptoms, or if you are experiencing bothersome side effects, make sure to talk to your healthcare provider about a different COPD medication or combination of medications.
An Overview of COPD MedicationsChronic 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 of COPD, there are other possible causes.
Depending on the severity of your COPD, your healthcare provider may recommend a number of medications as part of your COPD treatment. These may include:
- Bronchodilators (medications to open up the airways)
- Steroids (including inhaled steroids)
In addition to being COPD drugs, most (but not all) of these medications are commonly used to treat asthma (see Asthma Medication).
Bronchodilators as COPD MedicationsBronchodilators 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 to treat COPD. These medicines include:
- Short-acting beta agonists, such as:
- Long-acting beta agonists, such as:
- Anticholinergic bronchodilators, such as:
- Theophylline (Elixophyllin®, Theo-24®, TheoCap™, Theochron®, Uniphyl®).
Combination COPD medications contain two different types of bronchodilators: an albuterol and ipratropium inhaler (Combivent®). Short-acting beta-agonists are often used on an "as needed" basis, while long-acting beta agonists are usually taken every day.
Typically, an anticholinergic medication (ipratropium or tiopropium) should be the first medication used for treating COPD. If necessary, a beta-agonist may be added.