Inhalers for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are a mainstay of treatment, but understanding the variations between different inhalers can sometimes be confusing.
Types of COPD Inhalers
COPD inhalers can contain either a single medication or a combination of medications. An inhaler can include:
- A bronchodilator, which helps to open up your airways and increase air flow
- A corticosteroid, which helps to reduce inflammation in your airways
- A combination of several different bronchodilators
- A combination of bronchodilator and corticosteroid
Some inhalers are meant to be used daily over the long term, while others, called rescue inhalers, are used only in emergency situations.
Here are the most common COPD inhalers on the market today. If you think you might benefit from a different type of inhaler than what you’ve been prescribed, talk to your doctor about your concerns.
Advair is a combination of two medications: fluticasone, a corticosteroid, and salmeterol, a long-acting bronchodilator. Advair is used for maintenance treatment of COPD.
Originally used for the treatment of asthma, Symbicort was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in February 2009 for the treatment of stable COPD. Symbicort contains formoterol, a long-acting bronchodilator, and budesonide, a corticosteroid.
3 Combivent Respimat
Combivent contains two bronchodilators: albuterol (a beta-agonist—beta agonists help the muscles around your airways to relax) and ipratropium (an anticholinergic—a different type of drug that also helps the muscles around your airways to relax).Combination bronchodilator inhalers such as Combivent may help increase the bronchodilator effect of the medications, with the same or fewer side effects.
Pulmicort contains budesonide, a corticosteroid which helps reduce inflammation in the airways, making it easier for you to breathe. Pulmicort is used in maintenance treatment of COPD.
Used as a maintenance treatment for COPD, Spiriva contains a medication called tiotropium, an anticholinergic bronchodilator. It opens and relaxes the airways, making it easier to breathe.
Proventil is a rescue inhaler (in other words, an inhaler intended to help immediately with breathing problems) containing albuterol, a short-acting, beta-agonist bronchodilator. Proventil helps immediately relax the airways, making it easier to breathe. Proventil is often used for sudden episodes of shortness of breath related to bronchospasm in both asthma and COPD patients.
Atrovent contains ipratropium, an anticholinergic bronchodilator. It’s used in maintenance treatment of COPD.
Brovana is a long-acting bronchodilator (a beta-agonist drug). It’s used for long-term maintenance treatment in those with COPD to relax the airways and make it easier to breathe. It should be taken twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. Brovana is not a rescue inhaler, nor does it treat asthma.
9 Arcapta Neohaler
The Arcapta Neohaler is the brand name for indacaterol inhalation, a very long-acting beta-agonist bronchodilator. It comes in capsule form and is administered via a dry powder inhaler. It’s used for once-daily, long-term maintenance treatment of airflow obstruction in COPD, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It is not a rescue inhaler, nor is it meant to treat asthma.
10 Breo Ellipta
Breo Ellipta is a combination of two medications: fluticasone furoate, an inhaled corticosteroid (ICS), and vilanterol, a long-acting beta2-adrenergic agonist (a type of drug that relaxes the muscles around your airways and helps you clear mucus). Breo Ellipta is a once-daily maintenance medication for the treatment of airflow obstruction in patients with COPD, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
11 Trelegy Ellipta
Trelegy Ellipta is the only FDA-approved medicine that combines three separate long-acting medicines in one inhaler. These include fluticasone furoate (an inhaled corticosteroid), umeclidinium (a long-acting muscarinic antagonist), and vilanterol (a long-acting beta2-adrenergic agonist).
Trelegy is used once a day and is intended to open your airways, reduce inflammation, and significantly improve lung function. It is not intended to treat asthma.
12 Bevespi Aerosphere
Bevespi Aerosphere is a combination of two long-acting bronchodilators, glycopyrrolate and formoterol. It is intended as a maintenance treatment and is taken twice a day to help open airways and keep them open.Bevespi Aerosphere is not a rescue inhaler and is not used to treat sudden COPD symptoms. It is not for the treatment of asthma.
13 Tudorza Pressair
Tudorza Pressair delivers aclidinium bromide (a long-acting bronchodilator) and is meant to be used twice daily. It is not effective as a rescue inhaler.