Bronchodilator Medication for COPD

Bronchodilators help open the airways in the lungs by relaxing smooth muscle around the airways. Bronchodilator medication can be short or long acting.

Short-Acting Bronchodilators

  • These work quickly (within 15-20 minutes) to help decrease shortness of breath. They are sometimes described as "rescue" or "quick-reliever" medications. Your doctor may prescribe a short-acting beta-agonist to use as-needed to decrease shortness of breath or to use every day. They may also be prescribed before exercise. .Common short-acting inhaled beta-agonists include:

    • Proventil HFA®, ProAir®, Ventolin HFA® (albuterol)

    • Xopenex® (levalbuterol)

    • Atrovent® (ipratropium)

  • Combivent® (albuterol and ipratropium) is a common combination short-acting inhaled bronchodilator. Some people feel less shortness of breath with a combination of medications.

 

Long-Acting Bronchodilators

  • These medications are long-acting and their effects last for a long time. Therefore, these medications should not be used for acute shortness of breath in in an emergency. Long-acting bronchodilators are used regularly to open the airways and keep them open.

  • Common long-acting inhaled bronchodilators that are inhaled once every 24 hours include:

    • Arcapta® (indacaterol)

    • Incruse® (umeclidinium)

    • Spiriva® (tiotropium)

    • Stiverdi® (olodaterol)

  • Common long-acting combination inhaled bronchodilators that are inhaled every 24 hours include:

    • Anoro® (umedcldinium and vilanterol)

    • Stiolto (olodaterol and tiotropium)

  • Common long-acting inhaled bronchodilators that are inhaled every 12 hours include:

    • Foradil® (formoterol)

    • Tudorza® (aclidinium)

    • Serevent® (salmeterol)

 

Combination Long-Acting Bronchodilator and Anti-Inflammatory Medications

These combination medications combine a long-acting bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory medication. Anti-inflammatory medication helps reduce and prevent inflammation inside the airways. 

  • Common combination long-acting bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory medication that are inhaled every 24 hours include:
    • Breo® (fluticasone and vilanterol)
  • Common combination long-acting bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory medications that are inhaled every 12 hours include:
    • Advair® (fluticasone and salmeterol)
    • Symbicort® (budesonide and formoterol)

 

This information has been approved by Ann Mullen, RN, CNS, MSN, AE-C (December 2015).

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