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.
- 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. Common short-acting inhaled beta-agonists include:
- Proventil HFA®, ProAir®, Ventolin HFA® (albuterol)
- Xopenex® (levalbuterol)
- Maxair® (pirbuterol)
- 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.
- 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:
- Spiriva® (tiotropium)
- Arcapta® (indacaterol)
- Common long-acting inhaled bronchodilators that are inhaled every 12 hours include:
- Serevent® (salmeterol)
- Foradil® (formoterol)
- Brovana® (arformoterol)
Combination Long-Acting Bronchodilator and Anti-Inflammatory Medications
These combination medications combine two medications that are used to manage COPD in one device - a long-acting bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory medication. They are taken every 12 hours.
- Common combination long-acting bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory medications include:
- Advair® (Flovent® and Serevent®)
- Symbicort® (Pulmicort® and Foradil®)
This information has been approved by Russ Bowler, MD, PhD and Ann Mullen, RN, MSN, CNS, AE-C (August 2013).