Commonly used medicines for COPD

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Bronchodilators work to relax the airway muscles. This can help relieve coughing and shortness of breath and make breathing easier.9,17

Bronchodilators can be short-acting to give rescue relief, such as Ventolin®, or long-acting for maintenance treatment, such as Anoro® Ellipta®, Incruse Ellipta or Spiriva®.3,9

Types of long-acting bronchodilators include:

  • Long-acting muscarinic antagonists (LAMA), e.g. Incruse Ellipta, Spiriva® (tiotropium), Seebri® Breezhaler® (glycopyrronium);3,10,19
  • Long-acting beta2-agonist (LABA), e.g. Serevent® (salmeterol), Onbrez® Breezhaler® (indacaterol);11,12
  • Or a combination of both a LAMA and a LABA in one inhaler, e.g. Anoro Ellipta, Spiolto® Respimat® (tiotropium with olodaterol), Ultibro® Breezhaler® (indacaterol with glycopyrronium).1,13,20

The combination, or dual, bronchodilation provided by Anoro Ellipta is particularly helpful for people with COPD who easily run out of breath or become puffed while doing everyday activities, despite already taking daily medication for long-term treatment.1,2


Corticosteroids are used in COPD to reduce inflammation in the airways17 and help reduce or prevent flare-ups.16 Flare-ups are also known as exacerbations.

Oral corticosteroids are sometimes given in short courses (e.g. 5 days) for people who have moderate or severe acute exacerbations.9,16 Prednisone is an oral corticosteroid that is commonly used to treat acute flare-ups.16

Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) are used to help prevent exacerbations or flare-ups in the longer term.9,16

An ICS can be combined with a LABA to give better long-term symptom relief. Examples of ICS/LABA combination inhalers in New Zealand include Seretide® and Breo® Ellipta®.14,15


Respiratory infections, such as acute bronchitis, pneumonia and influenza, can worsen COPD symptoms. Antibiotics help treat acute exacerbations, but are not generally recommended for prevention.9