, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 89-95

Redefining Treatment in COPD

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Abstract

COPD is a growing international health concern and it is estimated that by the year 2020 it will rank fifth as a cause of disability worldwide. In response to this problem, the World Health Organization and the US National Institutes of Health convened a panel of experts to draft a consensus strategy to treat patients with COPD. Called the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) guidelines, they are designed to define and stage the severity of COPD, make recommendations for treatment, and to expand global awareness of the disease. The GOLD guidelines describe a multimodality approach to provide optimal care for the COPD patient population. This includes respiratory and rehabilitative therapy, nutrition services, psychosocial counseling, and surgical care.

Bronchodilators form the cornerstone of pharmacologic treatment for COPD. These medications can significantly lessen dyspnea, enhance quality of life, increase airflow, and improve exercise performance. While bronchodilators decrease airway resistance and lessen hyperinflation in patients with COPD, they have not been shown to influence the decline in FEV1 over time or improve survival in this patient population. Recently, long-acting β2-adrenoceptor agonists (β2-agonists) such as formoterol and salmeterol and anticholinergic medications including tiotropium bromide have been developed which may further improve symptom management in COPD patients. This article discusses bronchodilator pharmacologic therapy for patients with COPD focusing on β2-agonists, anticholinergics, and methylxanthines in the light of the recent GOLD consensus statements.