How Do COPD Agents Work?

Reviewed on 1/12/2022

How do COPD agents work?

COPD agents are medications prescribed to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. Several classes of medications are used as COPD agents, which work in unique ways to dilate the bronchial passage and ease breathing.

COPD agents work in the following ways:

  • Relax bronchial smooth muscles
  • Inhibit hypersensitive reactions in the bronchial passage
  • Reduce mucus secretion in the respiratory system
  • Improve lung function

COPD agents are primarily combinations of the following medications:

  • Long-acting beta2 agonists (LABAs): LABAs enhance the activity of beta-2 adrenergic receptors, protein molecules on cell surfaces that are stimulated by epinephrine, a natural hormone in the body. LABAs relax bronchial muscles and inhibit hypersensitivity reactions from mast cells, a type of immune cells that initiate allergic reactions.
  • Long-acting muscarinic antagonists (LAMAs): LAMAs block the activity of muscarinic receptors which make muscles contract in response to acetylcholine, a chemical that nerve endings secrete. LAMAs relax bronchial smooth muscles, reduce mucus secretion in the respiratory system and improve lung function.
  • Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids are potent anti-inflammatory agents that prevent immune cells from releasing pro-inflammatory substances. Corticosteroids have an effect on many types of immune cells such as mast cells, eosinophils, basophils, lymphocytes, macrophages, and neutrophils.

How are COPD agents used?

COPD agents are administered as oral inhalations in the form of powders, aerosolized tiny particles or droplets, or solutions nebulized into a fine mist. Many types of inhalation devices such as metered dose inhalers and nebulizers are available on prescription.

COPD agents are used in the treatment of the following conditions:


  • Long term maintenance treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases including:
  • Prevention and maintenance treatment of asthma, an inflammatory bronchial condition

Orphan designation:

  • Treatment of symptomatic exophthalmos (bulging of eyes) associated with thyroid-related eye disease

What are side effects of COPD agents?

Side effects of COPD agents may include the following:

Information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible side effects, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure these drugs do not cause any harm when you take them along with other medicines. Never stop taking your medication and never change your dose or frequency without consulting your doctor.

What are names of some COPD agents?

Generic and brand names of COPD agents include:


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