COPD treatments: CenterWell pharmacists explain
2 CenterWell™ pharmacists, Aida Zvekic and Sydney Haubner, present their guide for managing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic lung disease. There are 2 major symptoms of COPD: swelling of the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs (bronchitis), and the destruction of tiny air sacs that are at the tips of those tubes (emphysema).
COPD is usually caused by tobacco smoking. It can also be due to indoor or outdoor air pollution and work toxins, or because of a person’s genetics. Asthma can also turn into COPD.
COPD makes breathing difficult for the 16 million Americans who have this disease, and is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.¹
Every day we talk to many patients who live with COPD, but one—a former smoker—stands out. He asked us to tell his story to anyone who would listen.
He developed a cough, but saw it as mainly an annoyance, and continued to smoke. One day he started coughing blood. At age 53, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He managed to survive lung cancer but still has COPD. He feels chest tightness, and experiences shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing. Inhalers, a nebulizer, and his oxygen help, but he still endures symptoms. He is easily exhausted because of his condition. He shares this story with those that smoke as a plea to quit.
COPD is a treatable, but progressive disease. This means there is no cure, and it gets worse over time.
Quitting smoking is one of the most important steps in halting disease progression for any current smoker. The decision to quit smoking is a difficult, life-altering change. Some smokers may need to combine multiple treatments to deal with cravings. Nicotine replacement and other medications (such as Chantix® or bupropion) can help. The American Lung Association also has many tips and resources for quitting smoking.
The treatment goal for COPD is to prevent further decline in lung function, improve symptoms and increase quality of life. Various types of inhaled medications are the primary method of treatment.
There are a variety of commonly used inhalers.
- Bronchodilators relax the muscles surrounding the airways and help with shortness of breath and cough.
- Short-acting bronchodilators (such as albuterol or ipratropium) are used as needed to quickly relieve symptoms and before physical activities such as exercise.
- Long-acting bronchodilators (such as Spiriva®, Tudorza®, or Incruse Ellipta®) are used daily to reduce the occurrence of symptoms, and are used in combination with short-acting bronchodilators.
- Combination long-acting bronchodilators (such as Stiolto®, Bevespi®, or Anoro Ellipta®) have 2 bronchodilators in 1 inhaler and are used for patients that have more frequent or severe symptoms, along with a short-acting bronchodilator.
- Inhaled steroids (such as Flovent® or Arnuity Ellipta®) are used when symptoms persist, and white blood cells become elevated.
- Other combination inhalers (such as Trelegy® or Breztri®) have 3 medications in 1 inhaler—2 long-acting bronchodilators and an inhaled steroid.
We know firsthand how cost can affect your treatment plan. CenterWell Pharmacy® can help you navigate your options. Our pharmacists are available 24/7 for questions. Simply call 855-250-7660 and ask for a pharmacist—CenterWell pharmacists are here for you.
Other COPD treatment options may help as well.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation offers education, nutritional intervention, emotional support, and often includes exercise training such as “pursed-lips breathing” or “belly breathing.”²
- Supplemental oxygen may be used depending on the level of oxygen measured in the blood and is not necessarily needed for shortness of breath alone—talk to your healthcare provider about this therapy, as education for supplemental oxygen crucial for safety.³
- Surgery may be recommended for some with severe symptoms who are not benefiting from other therapies.⁴
A COPD diagnosis may seem scary, but there are millions of Americans affected each year—and many specialists, programs and treatments available to help! Please talk to your healthcare and insurance provider to understand what programs and treatments are available to you. Also, remember the flu shot and pneumonia vaccine may prevent COPD complications from other illnesses.
CenterWell Pharmacy is here to make sure you get your medication at your door, on time.
- “Basics about COPD,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed November 4, 2022.
- “The basics of pulmonary rehabilitation,” American Lung Association, last accessed November 4, 2022.
- “Oxygen therapy,” American Lung Association, last accessed November 4, 2022.
- “Surgery for COPD,” American Lung Association, last accessed November 4, 2022.
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This material is provided for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional.