10 Common Inhalers for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Sorting Out the Differences Between the Most Popular COPD Inhalers

Inhalers for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are a mainstay of treatment. But, understanding the variations between different inhalers can sometimes be confusing.

COPD inhalers can contain either a single medication or a combination of medications. An inhaler can be:

  • 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 different bronchodilators
  • a combination of bronchodilator and corticosteroid

To follow is a list of 10 of the most common COPD inhalers on the market today, along with explanations for each. 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. 

Inhalers for COPD - Advair

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Advair is a combination of two medications: fluticasone, a corticosteroid, and salmeterol, a long-acting bronchodilator. Advair is used for maintenance treatment of COPD. Learn more about the different types of bronchodilators, and discover the pros and cons of corticosteroids as treatment for COPD.

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Asthma Treatment, Child. Credit: BSIP / Contributor / Getty Images

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.

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Combivent Respimat

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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. Learn more about anticholinergic bronchodilator.

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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. Learn more about Pulmicort.

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A Pfizer Inc. logo appears on a the package of a Spiriva HandiHaler at a pharmacy in Princeton, Illinois, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014.. Credit: Bloomberg / Contributor / Getty Images

Used as maintenance treatment for COPD, Spiriva contains a medication called tiotropium, an anticholinergic bronchodilator. It opens and relaxes the airways, making it easier to breathe.

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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.

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Atrovent contains ipratropium, an anticholinergic bronchodilator. It is used in maintenance treatment of COPD.

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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. 

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Arcapta Neohaler

Male nurse explaining inhaler to boy. Credit: Hero Image / Getty Images

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.

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Breo Ellipta

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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.

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