Types of COPD Medications

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a common lung disease that restricts airflow to the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. There are two forms of COPD: chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Regardless of the form, symptoms of the disease typically worsen over time. There are, however, a number of medications that assist with the symptoms of COPD, which include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and life-threatening flare-ups.


Bronchodilators are prescription medications that are inhaled. The medication travels to the bronchial muscles surrounding your breathing tubes, or airways, and relaxes them, expanding your airways and helping you breathe better. There are two types of bronchodilators, and depending on the progression of COPD, your physician may prescribe you with more than one bronchodilator.

  • Short-Acting Bronchodilators

    A short-acting bronchodilator provides instant relief of COPD symptoms the moment you take it. Typically, these bronchodilators are inhaled to reduce sudden bronchospasm episodes.

    Short-acting bronchodilators can quickly loosen tightened bronchial muscles, clear mucus, and relieve shortness of breath. Medications that include Combivent Respimat, Proventil, ProAir HFA, and Xopenex are short-acting inhalers that must be prescribed by your physician.

  • Long-Acting BronchodilatorsA long-acting bronchodilator is prescribed as a daily maintenance treatment to help control symptoms of COPD. It should not be taken for instant relief. A physician may prescribe long-acting bronchodilators, such as Advair, Pulmicort, Spiriva, Brovana, and Atrovent.

Anti-Inflammatory Medications

People who suffer from COPD often develop inflammation that causes swelling and mucus production in their airways, making it difficult to breathe. COPD inflammation is treated with a medication known as corticosteroids.

Corticosteroid medicines are usually inhaled to allow the medicine to go straight to the lungs. Corticosteroids are also available in pill form for severe symptoms of COPD. There are several corticosteroid medications available by prescriptions, including Beclovent, Vanceril, QVAR, Flovent, and AeroBid.


Flare-ups associated with COPD sometimes can be caused by viral and bacterial infections. These infections are serious and should be examined by your physician. To clear up these infections, your physician may write you a prescription for an antibiotic or antiviral medication.

When taking an antibiotic, it is important to take all of it, even when you are feeling better. If you discontinue the antibiotic, the infection could still be present in your body and flare up again a lot worse than it was before.

Last Updated: October 04, 2017