Bronchodilator Medication for COPD
Bronchodilators help open the airways in the lungs by relaxing smooth muscle around the airways. Bronchodinator 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 every day. Common short-acting inhaled beta-agonists include:
- Proventil HFA®, ProAir®, Ventolin HFA® (albuterol)
- Xopenex® (levalbuterol)
- Maxair® (pirbuterol)
- Atrovent® (ipatropium)
- Combivent® (albuterol and ipatropium) 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.
- Spiriva® (tiotropium) is a long-acting bronchodilator (anticholinergic). Spiriva is inhaled once every 24 hours.
- Other common long-acting inhaled bronchodilators are often inhaled every 12 hours. They include:
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 anit-inflammatory medications include:
- Advair® (Flovent® and Serevent®)
- Symbicort® (Pulmicort® and Foradil®)
This information has been approved by Russ Bowler, MD, PhD (June 2009).