Your doctor may prescribe medicine to control the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Most people with COPD take long-acting medicine every day to help shortness of breath. In addition, short-acting medicine is used on an only-when-needed basis to decrease shortness of breath. For many, a combination of medicines is prescribed.

The important thing to remember is that there is no "best" drug regimen.  Your medicine is individualized based on your symptoms and needs. Monitoring your COPD and working with your health care provider on an ongoing basis is the best way to ensure that your medicine is right for you.

Here are the types of medications generally prescribed for people with COPD:

Learn how to manage your medications.


Signs the Medicine Is Helping


How can you work with your health care provider to see if your medicine is helping? The medication you are taking for COPD doesn’t totally take away the shortness of breath you often feel, but you should feel better. There are changes to watch for.

Changes you may notice when the medication is helping include:

  • You can do the same activities earlier and with less shortness of breath.
  • You are able to walk more and be more active.
  • You can do more chores and activities around the house.
  • You don’t tire as easily.
  • You feel less short of breath.

Watch for these changes as your medication are adjusted. When you visit your health care provider, discuss any changes with him or her.


This information has been approved by Barry J. Make, MD and Ann Mullen, RN, CNS, MSN, AE-C (September 2016).