About COPD

COPD Medication Options

Medication Types

There are two main types of medications for COPD. They may be used separately or as part of an integrated treatment plan.

Short-Acting Treatments

  • Work quickly to relieve sudden symptoms of COPD
  • Effects usually last for a few hours at a time
  • Typically the first line of therapy for treating COPD
  • Short-acting treatments are sometimes referred to as rescue treatments

Long-Acting/Maintenance Treatments

  • Work for a longer period of time, generally at least 12 to 24 hours
  • NOT effective for treating sudden symptoms of COPD
  • Taken daily to manage symptoms of COPD long-term when rescue therapy alone isn't enough to keep COPD symptoms under control

Explore a Treatment Option

Which medications could be appropriate for your or your loved one's COPD treatment plan?


Medication Devices


Dry Powder Inhaler (DPI)

Also known as disc medications, these consist of a chamber filled with tiny particles of a dry powder medication that are inhaled into the lungs. DPIs require patients to inhale forcefully through the device.


Metered-Dose Inhaler (MDI)

Also known as inhalers or puffers, these are the most common way to take COPD medication. These devices feature a small aerosol canister that delivers a fine spray of medicine into a patient's mouth that can then be inhaled into the lungs.

MDIs require "hand-breath coordination," meaning that the patient has to inhale just as the spray of medication is being released. Some people choose to use a device called a spacer that makes it easier to breathe in medication when using an MDI.



Nebulizer systems take liquid medication and turn it into a fine breathable mist that's inhaled through a mouthpiece or mask. When using a nebulizer, most medications are delivered in 5 to 15 minutes and work effectively with regular breathing.

soft mist inhaler


Soft mist inhalers are named for the slow-moving mist they deliver. The mist is composed of small particles that are delivered over a longer period of time.

Just like MDIs, SMIs require hand-breath coordination. However, the longer delivery and slower speed make coordination easier.

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Talk to a doctor about which medications could be appropriate for your or your loved one's COPD treatment plan. To prepare for your conversation, learn more about a treatment option.

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