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Medicines for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

There are many types of medicines to manage your COPD. Some help to control or prevent symptoms. These are called maintenance medicines. They are also called long-acting medicines. You may take these medicines every day. Or you may take them as instructed by your healthcare provider.

Other medicines for COPD are called rescue medicines. They are also called short-acting medicines. You take these only when you have symptoms. This means if you have more shortness of breath or chest tightness.

You can learn more about these medicines below. Take this sheet with you to your next office visit. Ask your healthcare provider to help you fill it out.

Bronchodilators

These relax the muscles around your airways. This lets you breathe more easily. They include:

Short-acting beta-2 agonists. These are rescue medicines. They work soon after you use them. An example is albuterol.

  • My medicine:  __________________________________________

  • When to take it:  __________________________________________

Long-acting beta-2 agonists (LABA). These are for COPD maintenance. They work more slowly than the short-acting type. But the effects last longer. An example is salmeterol.

  • My medicine:  __________________________________________

  • When to take it: __________________________________________

Anticholinergics. These include:

  • Short-acting muscarinic antagonists (SAMA).  These are rescue medicines. They may be used with a short-acting beta-2 agonist. This can help keep airways open. An example is ipratropium. 

    • My medicine:  __________________________________________

    • When to take it:  __________________________________________

  • Long-acting muscarinic antagonists (LAMA).  These are for COPD maintenance. An example is revefenacin.

    • My medicine:  __________________________________________

    • When to take it:  __________________________________________

Methylxanthines. These are for COPD maintenance. They have effects that last a long time. They may help if you have symptoms when you sleep. An example is theophylline.

  • My medicine:  __________________________________________

  • When to take it:  __________________________________________

Corticosteroids

These reduce inflammation. They also reduce swelling and mucus. This lets you breathe more easily. They include:

Inhaled corticosteroids. These are for COPD maintenance. They are used with an inhaler or nebulizer. An example is budesonide.

  • My medicine: __________________________________________

  • When to take it: __________________________________________

Oral corticosteroids. These are rescue medicines. They are taken by mouth. They may be used when symptoms get worse. Examples are prednisone and methylprednisolone.

  • My medicine: __________________________________________

  • When to take it: __________________________________________

PDE4 (phosphodiesterase type 4) inhibitors

 These reduce the risk for flare-ups if you have severe COPD. An example is roflumilast.

  • My medicine: __________________________________________

  • When to take it:  __________________________________________

Combination medicines

 These combine the effects of different types of medicines. For example, they may relax the muscles around the airways. And they may lessen airway swelling or inflammation. An example is albuterol/ipratropium.

  • My medicine: __________________________________________

  • When to take it: __________________________________________

Other medicines

Your healthcare provider may prescribe other medicines.

  • My medicine:  __________________________________________

  • What it does: __________________________________________

  • When to take it: __________________________________________

Herbal products and supplements

Some products for COPD can be bought without a prescription. These include herbs, extracts, or supplements. Talk with your healthcare provider before taking any of these. They can interact with the medicines you use.

Online Medical Reviewer: Allen J Blaivas DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2022
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