It’s a common question: what’s the best medicine to help improve chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)? Out of the several options that exist, the best one for you depends on the severity of your condition, what your doctor recommends, and what works best for your lifestyle.
Short-acting bronchodilators The job of bronchodilators is to relax the muscle bands that surround your airways. Short-acting bronchodilators act in the moment, helping in two ways: reducing coughing and making it easier to breathe. They provide quick relief via an inhaler and are known “rescue inhalers” for this reason. Common types include the medications Albuterol and Levalbuterol.
Long-acting bronchodilators Long-acting bronchodilators are designed for use over an extended period of time, working gradually to help improve breathing. Common medications of this type include Spiriva, Serevent, Brovana, and Tudorza.
Corticosteroids Corticosteroids are COPD drugs that focus on the lungs, reducing inflammation and improving air flow. These medications are available via inhalers, in pill form, or as injections. Flovent, Pulmicort, and Prednisolone are the corticosteroids most commonly prescribed for COPD.
Methylxanthines More severe cases of COPD sometimes call for methylxanthines, which are generally prescribed in conjunction with a bronchodilator. One of the most common is theophylline, which has anti-inflammatory properties and relaxes muscles in the airways.
COPD breathing medications Doctors also sometimes treat COPD by prescribing two types of medications in combination. For example, they might order two bronchodilators, or perhaps a corticosteroid with a long-acting bronchodilator. Some doctors also prescribe Roflumilast, a phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitor that relieves inflammation and can improve air flow to the lungs.
Over-the-counter treatments While the COPD drugs mentioned above require a prescription, over-the-counter medications can target COPD symptoms as well. For example, Mucinex helps treat excessive mucus. Moreover, new drugs and treatment methods are always being developed and tested. Find out about clinical trials near you to learn about new medications and treatment options.