New and Current Treatments for COPD

New and Current Treatments for COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, known as COPD, is a chronic lung disease affecting at least 16 million Americans as estimates show that millions are still undiagnosed. What’s even more worrying, COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. The disease is characterized by difficulty breathing, chest tightness, chronic coughing, wheezing, and increased mucus production.

In addition, there’s no cure for the condition. Fortunately, getting the right treatment can help patients manage the disease and live a long and fulfilling life. There are numerous treatment options currently used by doctors and several others that show promise for the future.

Current COPD Treatments

  1. Quitting Smoking

First and foremost, it is crucial that COPD patients quit smoking if they smoke. The reason for this is that nearly 90% of COPD patients developed the condition as a result of smoking. That said, the first step toward managing COPD is quitting smoking.

  1. Inhalers

Inhalers are medications that relax the muscles surrounding your airways and help you alleviate symptoms. These can be either short-acting or long-acting bronchodilators.

Long-acting bronchodilators are part of daily maintenance therapy to help control symptoms, relax muscles, ease breathing, and reduce mucus production. Some examples include salmeterol (Serevent Diskus), vilanterol (Breo Ellipta), formoterol (Perforomist), and indacaterol (ArcaptaNeohaler), and olodaterol (Striverdi Respimat).

Short-acting bronchodilators, known as rescue inhalers, aren’t used daily but only in case of emergency to provide fast relief in case of breathing difficulties. Some examples include albuterol (Ventolin HFA), levalbuterol (Xopenex), and metaproterenol (Alupent).

Moreover, there are also anticholinergic inhalers that help prevent airway muscle tightening and can be short-acting or long-acting. Some examples include tiotropium (Spiriva), aclidinium (Tudorza), ipratropium (Atrovent), and umeclidinium.

  1. Oxygen Therapy

Since COPD can lead to low oxygen levels, getting oxygen therapy is yet another treatment option that helps relieve some COPD effects. During this therapy, a patient uses nasal prongs or a mask through which oxygen is pumped and gets an immediate increase in oxygen levels. The therapy isn’t used daily, but only when symptoms flare.

  1. Oral Medications

Furthermore, certain oral medications are also used for treating COPD. One example is Roflumilast (Daliresp) which helps reduce airway inflammation in case of severe COPD to prevent tissue damage and improve lung function. Some antivirals and antibiotics may also be used to treat COPD symptoms, especially in case of a flare-up. These cannot repair any damage but only stop additional damage.

  1. Surgery

The last resort as a COPD treatment is surgery when other treatment options don’t provide any relief or in case of an advanced severe COPD. Some surgical options include bullectomy (removal of damaged air sacs), lung volume reduction surgery (removal of about 30% of damaged or diseased lung tissue), and endobronchial valve surgery (Zephyr valves placement to block off damaged parts), and lung transplant (healthy donor lung replacement).

New COPD Treatments

New medications and procedures are continually being developed to help alleviate symptoms of those suffering from COPD.

  1. Biologics and IL -5 Medications

These treatments, called biologic drugs, address the specific COPD causes to get rid of them and eliminate inflammation. One example is anti-interleukin-5 (IL-5) which targets inflammation caused by a large number of eosinophils, a specific type of white blood cells.

  1. Stem Cell Therapy

Undifferentiated cells fed into the body are called stem cells. These do not have any special purpose or job, but as soon as they are injected, they get become specialized to serve a specific purpose, for instance regenerating lung tissue and preventing further lung damage.

It is believed that stem cells could soon be used to create alveolar cells which are crucial for air and gas exchange in the lungs.