Optimizing Drug Therapies in Patients with COPD in the US Nursing Home Setting

  • Roy A. Pleasants
  • Peter A. Radlowski
  • H. Edward DavidsonEmail author
Review Article


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be a disabling disease, and the impact on older adults is particularly evident in the nursing home setting. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is present in about 20% of nursing home residents, most often in women, and accounts for significant healthcare utilization including acute care visits for exacerbations and pneumonia, as well as worsening heart disease and diabetes mellitus. The emphasis on hospital readmissions is particularly important in nursing homes where institutions have quality measures that have financial implications. Optimizing drug therapies in individuals with COPD involves choosing medications that not only improve symptoms, but also decrease the risk of exacerbations. Optimizing the treatment of comorbidities such as heart disease, infections, and diabetes that may affect COPD outcomes is also an important consideration. Depending on the nursing home setting and the patient, the options for optimizing COPD drug therapies may be limited owing to patient-related factors such as cognition and physical impairment or available resources, primarily reimbursement-related issues. Choosing the best drug therapy for COPD in older adults is limited by the difficulty in assessing respiratory symptoms using standardized assessment tools and potentially decreased inspiratory ability of frail individuals. Because of cognitive and physical impediments, ensuring optimal delivery of inhaled medications into the lungs has significant challenges. Long-acting bronchodilators, inhaled corticosteroids, and roflumilast decrease the risk of exacerbations, although inhaled corticosteroids should be used judiciously in this population because of the risk of pneumonia and oropharyngeal side effects. Treatment of COPD exacerbations should occur early and consideration should be made to the benefits and risks of systemic corticosteroids and antibiotics. Clinical research in the COPD population in nursing homes is clearly lacking, and ripe for discovery of effective management strategies.


Compliance with Ethical Standards


No funding was received for the preparation of this manuscript.

Conflict of Interest

Roy A. Pleasants has disclosures for Sunovion, Teva, Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline, and Grifols. Peter A. Radlowski and H. Edward Davidson have received research grant support from Sunovion Pharmaceuticals.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UNC Chapel Hill Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care MedicineChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Durham Veterans Administration Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Insight Therapeutics, LLCNorfolkUSA
  4. 4.Clinical Internal MedicineEastern Virginia Medical SchoolNorfolkUSA

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