COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) (cont.)

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What medications treat COPD?

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

The first line of therapy that involves medication is related to smoking cessation with nicotine replacement therapy. Nicotine replacement therapy can help patients quit smoking tobacco because it can help reduce the withdrawal symptoms due to nicotine. Replacement therapies include nicotine-containing chewing gum and patches that allow nicotine to be absorbed through the skin. In these types of therapy, nicotine is gradually reduced. This medication can work well for those patients who are seriously attempting to quit tobacco.

Oral Medications to Quit Smoking (Smoking Cessation)

  • Varenicline (Chantix) is an oral medication that is prescribed to promote cessation of smoking. This is also an alternative to try to quit smoking.
  • Bupropion (Zyban) is an antidepressant that helps reduce symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
  • Some medications are used "off label" (that is, they are normally prescribed for another condition) to help people quit smoking. These drugs are recommended by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to help smokers kick the habit, but have not been approved by the FDA for this use. These medications include nortriptyline (Pamelor), an older type of antidepressant. It's been found to help smokers double their chances of quitting compared to taking no medicine. Another drug used off label is clonidine (Catapres). Normally used to treat high blood pressure it can help smokers quit.


Bronchodilators are used for COPD treatment because they open up the airway tubes and allow air to more freely pass in and out of the lung tissue. There are both short-term (several hours) and long-term (12 or more hours) types of bronchodilators.

Some short-term medications include:

Some long-term bronchodilators include:

  • salmeterol (Serevent),
  • formoterol (Foradil),
  • arformoterol (Brovana), and
  • indacaterol (Arcapta).
  • Anticholinergic bronchodilators include:
  • ipratropium (Atrovent),
  • tiotropium (Spiriva), and
  • aclidinium (Tudorza).

Other bronchodilators such as theophylline (Elixophyllin, Theo-24) are occasionally used, but are not favored because of unwanted side effects including anxiety, tremors, seizures, and arrhythmias.

Also on the market are combined to drugs using steroids and long-acting bronchodilators. Roflumilast (Daxas, Daliresp) is a new drug that inhibits the enzyme phosphodiesterase type 4, has been utilized in patients with symptoms of chronic bronchitis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/4/2015

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