The Knowledge Center

Treatment types

There are 2 main types of prescription COPD treatments.

Prescription medicine can open your airways so you can breathe easier. Long-acting “maintenance” medicines help keep airways open, so you can maintain better breathing. “Rescue” inhalers can be used as needed to help you when your airways become narrowed, even while on maintenance treatment. Talk to your doctor about how both kinds of treatment work.

Daily maintenance medicines:

  • Taken once, twice, or up to 4 times a day to help keep your airways open for up to 24 hours
  • Some are available in steroid-free options, while some contain steroids
  • There are both long-acting and short-acting maintenance medicines
  • There are also combination therapies that have multiple medicines in one dose, such as a dual bronchodilator; talk with your doctor about whether this type of therapy is right for you

Rescue medicines:

  • The effects of one dose usually only last 4 to 6 hours
  • May be prescribed for use as needed when your airways are suddenly restricted

Your doctor can recommend 1 or more of these medicines to you, based on your level of symptoms. If your symptoms worsen or become more frequent, talk to your doctor about other treatment options.

There are also different types of inhaler devices available. Some inhalers use chemical propellants to deliver powdered medicine. Other inhalers use a spring action to deliver medicine in a slow-moving mist. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you learn how to use these inhalers and answer any questions you may have.

Keep taking your maintenance treatment, even when you’re breathing easier.

Some people stop taking their daily management medicine because they don't think it's working. Just remember: You should take prescribed maintenance medicines every day to keep your airways open so you can breathe easier. Maintenance medicines can help your lungs feel less constricted, allowing you to use rescue inhalers less often. However you are treating COPD, it’s important to take your medicines as directed by your doctor.

Want to know more about:

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