If your current treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) isn’t working, try not to be discouraged. Although COPD causes inflammation in your airways, there are many treatments available, and treatment in general is considered to be progressive. That means if a first-step treatment doesn’t relieve symptoms like coughing and shortness of breath, a second-step treatment is in order, then a third, and so on. If you smoke, the most important step in your treatment is to quit. Beating a nicotine addiction isn’t easy, but it’s essential for other treatments to work effectively, and more help is available now than ever before. Short-Acting Versus Long-Acting Inhalers for COPD Aside from smoking cessation, your first treatment for COPD was most likely a short-acting inhaler. It’s used as needed to help you breathe, and it works fast, lasting for a few hours. If a short-acting inhaler doesn’t provide enough relief, your doctor may then recommend a long-acting inhaler to be used daily. A long-acting inhaler doesn’t work as quickly as a short-acting inhaler, but it lasts much longer—up to 24 hours. Both types of inhalers contain one of these two types of bronchodilator medications: Beta2-agonists: these relax muscles around your airways to open them up Anticholinergics: these work in much the same way, but also make it easier to cough up mucus from your lungs to get rid of it You may hear long-acting inhalers referred to by these abbreviations: LAMA: Long-acting muscarinic antagonist LABA: Long-acting Beta2-agonist It’s important to use long-acting inhalers as intended and not with the same frequency as you would a short-acting inhaler. Combination Inhalers for COPD Treatment for COPD tends to be very personalized. Your doctor will work with you to find the best medication—or medications—for you depending on how you respond in a phased approach. Beta2-agonists and anticholinergics can be combined in one inhaler, for example, and a corticosteroid can be added to the combination. Every COPD medication comes with its own benefits and risks. Make sure you understand them well and weigh them carefully with your doctor. Side effects of medication used in a combination inhaler can include headache, dizziness, nervousness, muscle cramps, nausea, and an increased risk of infection. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics proactively in case of infection and advise you to keep your flu shot up to date. New Biologics for COPD Biologics, also called targeted therapies, are a newer type of medication you and your doctor can explore if your COPD doesn’t respond to more traditional treatments and therapies. Biologics help stop inflammation in your body at the cellular level. They’ve been successfully prescribed for many inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and asthma; however, no biologic drugs have yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat COPD specifically. Your doctor may encourage your participation in an investigative clinical trial to determine if targeted therapy can relieve your COPD symptoms. Additional COPD Treatments Landing on the right long-lasting medication for you may mean no additional treatment exploration is necessary. But know that you still have options. Adding oxygen treatments or a pulmonary rehabilitation program can help. Wherever your treatment path takes you, be assured that you have a lot of science on your side. Choose a doctor who will help you navigate it, answer your questions, and keep you comfortable with the treatment process.