The official blog of the Lung Institute.
The medications prescribed for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) depend on the type of symptoms that a patient is experiencing, as well as their frequency and severity. COPD, which is a category of diseases including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, is characterized by restricted airflow into and out of the lungs, resulting in shortness of breath and a chronic cough. As such, the goal of COPD treatment is to help patients breathe easier by increasing airflow and reducing airway inflammation.
Some of the most commonly prescribed medications for COPD treatment are bronchodilators. These medications, which are usually taken through an inhaler, help to open a patient’s airways and increase airflow. While some inhalers only contain one bronchodilator (referred to as monotherapy), others contain both a bronchodilator and an inhaled steroid (referred to as combination therapy). There are two types of bronchodilators: beta-agonists, which relax and widen the muscles in a patient’s airways, and anticholinergics, which prevent the muscles in the airways from tightening while also clearing mucus from the patient’s lungs. Some of the bronchodilators used for COPD treatment are short-acting, meaning that they act fast, but wear off quickly. Because they are generally used in emergencies, they are often referred to as rescue bronchodilators. Other bronchodilators are long-acting. These bronchodilators, which are generally taken twice a day, are used to maintain COPD symptoms and prevent flare-ups.
In addition to bronchodilators, some of the medications commonly prescribed for COPD treatment include the following:
- Steroids — Steroids are often prescribed as a supplement to long-acting bronchodilators, given with the goal of reducing inflammation in a patient’s airways. Steroids used for COPD treatment come in two forms: inhaled steroids and short-term oral steroids. Inhaled steroids are typically prescribed to patients who continue to experience frequent flare-ups even after continually using a long-acting bronchodilator. Short-term oral steroids are generally prescribed to patients who are experiencing moderate to severe flare-ups.
- Oral non-steroid medications — Some people with COPD may benefit from taking oral non-steroid medications. For example, COPD patients also requiring treatment for pulmonary fibrosis may be prescribed pirfenidone, which helps to reduce lung fibrosis.
- Vaccinations — Because people with COPD have trouble exhaling bacteria and pollutants from their lungs, they stand a greater risk of contracting influenza or pneumonia. As such, COPD treatment often involves influenza and pneumonia vaccinations. While the influenza vaccine must be administered every year, the pneumonia vaccine is typically only administered once, although it may require subsequent boosters to maintain its effectiveness.
- Antibiotics — If a COPD patient develops a respiratory infection, it could worsen his or her symptoms and even develop into pneumonia. As such, people with COPD are often prescribed antibiotics for treatment of these infections.
Unfortunately, although these medications can help to alleviate COPD symptoms, they do not actually address the underlying condition. At the Lung Institute, however, we offer an alternative form of COPD treatment that can slow the progression of the disease itself: stem cell therapy. During this minimally invasive procedure, we harvest stem cells from a patient’s own blood or bone marrow, separate the stem cells from the rest of the fluid and then reintroduce the concentrated stem cells back into the patient’s bloodstream.
If you would like to learn more about adding stem cell therapy to your COPD treatment plan, please call us today at (800) 729-3065. Our goal is to help you breathe easier.