COPD - Medications

What medications have been helpful in treating COPD?

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Medications for 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.

Quitting smoking oral medication

Varenicline (Chantix) is an oral medication that is prescribed to promote cessation of smoking. This is also an alternative to try to quit smoking.

Bronchodilators

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:

  • albuterol (Ventolin, Proventil), 
  • metaproterenol (Alupent),
  • levalbuterol (Xopenex), and
  • pirbuterol (Maxair).

 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 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.

Other therapies

Other supplementary therapies such as treatment with antibiotics to reduce pathogen (viral, fungal, bacterial) damage to lung tissue, mucolytic agents to help unblock mucus-clogged airways, or oxygenation therapies to increase the available oxygen to lung tissues may also reduce the symptoms of COPD. In some patients oxygen therapy will increase a patient's life expectancy and improve quality of life. This is especially true with patients who have chronically low oxygen levels in the blood. It may also help exercise endurance. Oxygen delivery systems are now easily portable and have reduced costs compared to earlier designs.

Return to COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

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