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Mechanism of Action

Tiotropium is a long-acting, antimuscarinic agent, which is often referred to as an anticholinergic. It has similar affinity to the subtypes of muscarinic receptors, M1 to M5. In the airways, it exhibits pharmacological effects through inhibition of M3-receptors at the smooth muscle leading to bronchodilation. The competitive and reversible nature of antagonism was shown with human and animal origin receptors and isolated organ preparations. In preclinical in vitro as well as in vivo studies, prevention of methacholine-induced bronchoconstriction effects was dose-dependent and lasted longer than 24 hours. The bronchodilation following inhalation of tiotropium is predominantly a site-specific effect.


Cardiovascular Effects

In a multicenter, randomized, double-blind trial that enrolled 198 patients with COPD, the number of subjects with changes from baseline-corrected QT interval of 30 to 60 msec was higher in the SPIRIVA HandiHaler group as compared with placebo. This difference was apparent using both the Bazett (QTcB) [20 (20%) patients vs 12 (12%) patients] and Fredericia (QTcF) [16 (16%) patients vs 1 (1%) patient] corrections of QT for heart rate. No patients in either group had either QTcB or QTcF of > 500 msec. Other clinical studies with SPIRIVA HandiHaler did not detect an effect of the drug on QTc intervals.

The effect of SPIRIVA HandiHaler on QT interval was also evaluated in a randomized, placebo- and positive-controlled crossover study in 53 healthy volunteers. Subjects received SPIRIVA HandiHaler 18 mcg, 54 mcg (3 times the recommended dose), or placebo for 12 days. ECG assessments were performed at baseline and throughout the dosing interval following the first and last dose of study medication. Relative to placebo, the maximum mean change from baseline in study-specific QTc interval was 3.2 msec and 0.8 msec for SPIRIVA HandiHaler 18 mcg and 54 mcg, respectively. No subject showed a new onset of QTc > 500 msec or QTc changes from baseline of ≥ 60 msec.


Tiotropium is administered by dry powder inhalation. In common with other inhaled drugs, the majority of the delivered dose is deposited in the gastrointestinal tract and, to a lesser extent, in the lung, the intended organ. Many of the pharmacokinetic data described below were obtained with higher doses than recommended for therapy.


Following dry powder inhalation by young healthy volunteers, the absolute bioavailability of 19.5% suggests that the fraction reaching the lung is highly bioavailable. It is expected from the chemical structure of the compound (quaternary ammonium compound) that tiotropium is poorly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. The effect of food on tiotropium's bioavailability has not been studied. Oral solutions of tiotropium have an absolute bioavailability of 2% to 3%. Maximum tiotropium plasma concentrations were observed 5 minutes after inhalation.


Tiotropium shows a volume of distribution of 32 L/kg indicating that the drug binds extensively to tissues. The human plasma protein binding for tiotropium is 72%. At steady state, peak tiotropium plasma levels in COPD patients were 17 to 19 pg/mL when measured 5 minutes after dry powder inhalation of an 18 mcg dose and decreased in a multi-compartmental manner. Steady-state trough plasma concentrations were 3 to 4 pg/mL. Local concentrations in the lung are not known, but the mode of administration suggests substantially higher concentrations in the lung. Studies in rats have shown that tiotropium does not readily penetrate the blood-brain barrier.


The extent of metabolism appears to be small. This is evident from a urinary excretion of 74% of unchanged substance after an intravenous dose to young healthy volunteers. Tiotropium, an ester, is nonenzymatically cleaved to the alcohol N-methylscopine and dithienylglycolic acid, neither of which binds to muscarinic receptors.

In vitro experiments with human liver microsomes and human hepatocytes suggest that a fraction of the administered dose (74% of an intravenous dose is excreted unchanged in the urine, leaving 25% for metabolism) is metabolized by cytochrome P450-dependent oxidation and subsequent glutathione conjugation to a variety of Phase II metabolites. This enzymatic pathway can be inhibited by CYP450 2D6 and 3A4 inhibitors, such as quinidine, ketoconazole, and gestodene. Thus, CYP450 2D6 and 3A4 are involved in the metabolic pathway that is responsible for the elimination of a small part of the administered dose. In vitro studies using human liver microsomes showed that tiotropium in supra-therapeutic concentrations did not inhibit CYP450 1A1, 1A2, 2B6, 2C9, 2C19, 2D6, 2E1, or 3A4.


The terminal elimination half-life of tiotropium was between 5 and 6 days following inhalation. Total clearance was 880 mL/min after an intravenous dose in young healthy volunteers with an inter-individual variability of 22%. Intravenously administered tiotropium was mainly excreted unchanged in urine (74%). After dry powder inhalation, urinary excretion was 14% of the dose, the remainder being mainly non-absorbed drug in the gut which was eliminated via the feces. The renal clearance of tiotropium exceeds the creatinine clearance, indicating active secretion into the urine. After chronic once-daily inhalation by COPD patients, pharmacokinetic steady state was reached after 2 to 3 weeks with no accumulation thereafter.

Drug Interactions

An interaction study with tiotropium (14.4 mcg intravenous infusion over 15 minutes) and cimetidine 400 mg three times daily or ranitidine 300 mg once daily was conducted. Concomitant administration of cimetidine with tiotropium resulted in a 20% increase in the AUC0-4h, a 28% decrease in the renal clearance of tiotropium and no significant change in the Cmax and amount excreted in urine over 96 hours. Co-administration of tiotropium with ranitidine did not affect the pharmacokinetics of tiotropium.

Specific Populations

Geriatric Patients

As expected for drugs predominantly excreted renally, advanced age was associated with a decrease of tiotropium renal clearance (326 mL/min in COPD patients < 58 years to 163 mL/min in COPD patients > 70 years), which may be explained by decreased renal function. Tiotropium excretion in urine after inhalation decreased from 14% (young healthy volunteers) to about 7% (COPD patients). Plasma concentrations were numerically increased with advancing age within COPD patients (43% increase in AUC0-4 after dry powder inhalation), which was not significant when considered in relation to inter- and intra-individual variability [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION and Use In Specific Populations].

Renal Impairment

Since tiotropium is predominantly renally excreted, renal impairment was associated with increased plasma drug concentrations and reduced drug clearance after both intravenous infusion and dry powder inhalation. Mild renal impairment (creatinine clearance of 50 to 80 mL/min), which is often seen in elderly patients, increased tiotropium plasma concentrations (39% increase in AUC0-4 after intravenous infusion). In COPD patients with moderate to severe renal impairment (creatinine clearance of < 50 mL/min), the intravenous administration of tiotropium resulted in doubling of the plasma concentrations (82% increase in AUC0-4), which was confirmed by plasma concentrations after dry powder inhalation. Patients with moderate to severe renal impairment (creatinine clearance of ≤ 50 mL/min) treated with SPIRIVA HandiHaler should be monitored closely for anticholinergic side effects [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS, and Use In Specific Populations].

Hepatic Impairment

The effects of hepatic impairment on the pharmacokinetics of tiotropium were not studied.

Animal Toxicology and Pharmacology

Reproductive Toxicology Studies

No evidence of fetal structural alteration was observed in rats and rabbits at inhalation tiotropium doses of up to 1.471 and 0.007 mg/kg/day, respectively. These doses correspond to approximately 660 and 6 times the RHDID on a mg/m² basis, respectively. However, in rats, fetal resorption, litter loss, decreases in the number of live pups at birth and the mean pup weights, and a delay in pup sexual maturation were observed at inhalation tiotropium doses of ≥ 0.078 mg/kg (approximately 35 times the RHDID on a mg/m² basis). In rabbits, an increase in post-implantation loss was observed at an inhalation dose of 0.4 mg/kg/day (approximately 360 times the RHDID on a mg/m² basis). Such effects were not observed at inhalation doses of 0.009 and up to 0.088 mg/kg/day in rats and rabbits, respectively. These doses correspond to approximately 4 and 80 times the RHDID on a mg/m² basis, respectively. These dose multiples may be over-estimated due to difficulties in measuring deposited doses in animal inhalation studies.

Clinical Studies

The SPIRIVA HandiHaler (tiotropium bromide inhalation powder) clinical development program consisted of six Phase 3 studies in 2663 patients with COPD (1308 receiving SPIRIVA HandiHaler): two 1-year, placebo-controlled studies, two 6-month, placebo-controlled studies and two 1-year, ipratropium-controlled studies. These studies enrolled patients who had a clinical diagnosis of COPD, were 40 years of age or older, had a history of smoking greater than 10 pack-years, had a forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) less than or equal to 60% or 65% of predicted, and a ratio of FEV1/FVC of less than or equal to 0.7.

In these studies, SPIRIVA HandiHaler, administered once-daily in the morning, provided improvement in lung function (FEV1), with peak effect occurring within 3 hours following the first dose.

Two additional trials evaluated exacerbations: a 6-month, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter clinical trial of 1829 COPD patients in a US Veterans Affairs setting and a 4-year, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter, clinical trial of 5992 COPD patients. Long-term effects on lung function and other outcomes were also evaluated in the 4-year multicenter trial.

6-Month to 1-Year Effects on Lung Function

In the 1-year, placebo-controlled trials, the mean improvement in FEV1 at 30 minutes was 0.13 liters (13%) with a peak improvement of 0.24 liters (24%) relative to baseline after the first dose (Day 1). Further improvements in FEV1 and forced vital capacity (FVC) were observed with pharmacodynamic steady state reached by Day 8 with once-daily treatment. The mean peak improvement in FEV1, relative to baseline, was 0.28 to 0.31 liters (28% to 31%), after 1 week (Day 8) of once-daily treatment. Improvement of lung function was maintained for 24 hours after a single dose and consistently maintained over the 1-year treatment period with no evidence of tolerance.

In the two 6-month, placebo-controlled trials, serial spirometric evaluations were performed throughout daytime hours in Trial A (12 hours) and limited to 3 hours in Trial B. The serial FEV1 values over 12 hours (Trial A) are displayed in Figure 1. These trials further support the improvement in pulmonary function (FEV1) with SPIRIVA HandiHaler, which persisted over the spirometric observational period. Effectiveness was maintained for 24 hours after administration over the 6-month treatment period.

Figure 1: Mean FEV1 Over Time (prior to and after administration of study drug) on Days 1 and 169 for Trial A (a Six-Month Placebo-Controlled Study)* Day 1

Mean FEV1 Over Time on Day 1 - Illustration

Day 169

Mean FEV1 Over Time on Day 169 - Illustration

*Means adjusted for center, treatment, and baseline effect. On Day 169, a total of 183 and 149 patients in the SPIRIVA HandiHaler and placebo groups, respectively, completed the trial. The data for the remaining patients were imputed using the last observation or least favorable observation carried forward.

Results of each of the 1-year ipratropium-controlled trials were similar to the results of the 1-year placebo-controlled trials. The results of one of these trials are shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2 : Mean FEV1 Over Time (0 to 6 hours post-dose) on Days 1 and 92, Respectively for One of the Two Ipratropium-Controlled Studies* Day 1

Mean FEV1 Over Time (0 to 6 hours post-dose) on Days 1 - Illustration

Day 92

Mean FEV1 Over Time (0 to 6 hours post-dose) on Days 92

*Means adjusted for center, treatment, and baseline effect. On Day 92 (primary endpoint), a total of 151 and 69 patients in the SPIRIVA HandiHaler and ipratropium groups, respectively, completed through 3 months of observation. The data for the remaining patients were imputed using the last observation or least favorable observation carried forward.

A randomized, placebo-controlled clinical study in 105 patients with COPD demonstrated that bronchodilation was maintained throughout the 24-hour dosing interval in comparison to placebo, regardless of whether SPIRIVA HandiHaler was administered in the morning or in the evening.

Throughout each week of the one-year treatment period in the two placebo-controlled trials, patients taking SPIRIVA HandiHaler had a reduced requirement for the use of rescue short-acting beta2-agonists. Reduction in the use of rescue short-acting beta2-agonists, as compared to placebo, was demonstrated in one of the two 6-month studies.

4-Year Effects on Lung Function

A 4-year, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter clinical trial involving 5992 COPD patients was conducted to evaluate the long-term effects of SPIRIVA HandiHaler on disease progression (rate of decline in FEV1). Patients were permitted to use all respiratory medications (including short-acting and long-acting beta-agonists, inhaled and systemic steroids, and theophyllines) other than inhaled anticholinergics. The patients were 40 to 88 years of age, 75% male, and 90% Caucasian with a diagnosis of COPD and a mean pre-bronchodilator FEV1 of 39% predicted (range = 9% to 76%) at study entry. There was no difference between the groups in either of the co-primary efficacy endpoints, yearly rate of decline in pre- and post-bronchodilator FEV1, as demonstrated by similar slopes of FEV1 decline over time (Figure 3).

SPIRIVA HandiHaler maintained improvements in trough (pre-dose) FEV1 (adjusted means over time: 87 to 103 mL) throughout the 4 years of the study (Figure 3).

Figure 3 : Trough (pre-dose) FEV1 Mean Values at Each Time Point

Trough (pre-dose) FEV1 Mean Values at Each Time Point - Illustration

Repeated measure ANOVA was used to estimate means. Means are adjusted for baseline measurements. Baseline trough FEV1 (observed mean) = 1.12. Patients with ≥ 3 acceptable pulmonary function tests after Day 30 and non-missing baseline value were included in the analysis.


The effect of SPIRIVA HandiHaler on COPD exacerbations was evaluated in two clinical trials: a 4-year clinical trial described above and a 6-month clinical trial of 1829 COPD patients in a Veterans Affairs setting. In the 6-month trial, COPD exacerbations were defined as a complex of respiratory symptoms (increase or new onset) of more than one of the following: cough, sputum, wheezing, dyspnea, or chest tightness with a duration of at least 3 days requiring treatment with antibiotics, systemic steroids, or hospitalization. The population had an age ranging from 40 to 90 years with 99% males, 91% Caucasian, and had COPD with a mean pre-bronchodilator FEV1 percent predicted of 36% (range = 8% to 93%). Patients were permitted to use respiratory medications (including short-acting and long-acting beta-agonists, inhaled and systemic steroids, and theophyllines) other than inhaled anticholinergics. In the 6-month trial, the co-primary endpoints were the proportion of patients with COPD exacerbation and the proportion of patients with hospitalization due to COPD exacerbation. SPIRIVA HandiHaler significantly reduced the proportion of COPD patients who experienced exacerbations compared to placebo (27.9% vs 32.3%, respectively; Odds Ratio (OR) (tiotropium/placebo) = 0.81; 95% CI = 0.66, 0.99; p = 0.037). The proportion of patients with hospitalization due to COPD exacerbations in patients who used SPIRIVA HandiHaler compared to placebo was 7.0% vs 9.5%, respectively; OR = 0.72; 95% CI = 0.51, 1.01; p = 0.056.

Exacerbations were evaluated as a secondary outcome in the 4-year multicenter trial. In this trial, COPD exacerbations were defined as an increase or new onset of more than one of the following respiratory symptoms (cough, sputum, sputum purulence, wheezing, dyspnea) with a duration of three or more days requiring treatment with antibiotics and/or systemic (oral, intramuscular, or intravenous) steroids. SPIRIVA HandiHaler significantly reduced the risk of an exacerbation by 14% (Hazard Ratio (HR) = 0.86; 95% CI = 0.81, 0.91; p < 0.001) and reduced the risk of exacerbation-related hospitalization by 14% (HR = 0.86; 95% CI = 0.78, 0.95; p < 0.002) compared to placebo. The median time to first exacerbation was delayed from 12.5 months (95% CI = 11.5, 13.8) in the placebo group to 16.7 months (95% CI = 14.9, 17.9) in the SPIRIVA HandiHaler group.

Last reviewed on RxList: 9/7/2011
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

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