Medications don't cure COPD, but they do help keep it under control. This chart will help you learn more about the medications used to manage COPD. It's important to know the names of the medications you're prescribed and how they work. Be sure to take them as directed by your doctor. Types of Medications How They Work Examples of Medications Possible Side Effects and Special Precautions Bronchodilators Fast-acting beta-2 agonists Relax and open airways Increase movement of cilia to help clear mucus Help prevent exercise-induced wheezing Help stop attacks Inhaled: HCI (Xopenex HFA); metaproterenol sulfate; terbutaline sulfate albuterol sulfate (Ventolin HFA, Proventil HFA); levalbuterol Trembling, nervousness, insomnia, fast heartbeat, or increased blood pressure. Should be taken before other bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids. Long-acting beta-2 agonists Relax and open airways Take effect more slowly and work longer than fast-acting beta-2 agonists Increase movement of cilia to help clear mucus Help prevent exercise-induced wheezing Inhaled: formoterol fumarate (Foradil); salmeterol xinafoate (Serevent) Fast heartbeat, headache, nervousness, or trembling. Do not use for quick relief. Do not take more often than prescribed. Anticholinergics Relax and open airways Take effect more slowly than fast-acting beta-2 agonists Inhaled: ipratropium bromide (Atrovent HFA); tiotropium bromide (Spiriva) Nervousness, dizziness, drowsiness, headache, upset stomach, constipation, or dry mouth. Methylxanthines Stimulate the diaphragm and breathing May be useful if symptoms occur during sleep Are long-acting Swallowed: theophylline (Elixophyllin, Theolair, Theochron, Theo-24) Headache, nervousness, insomnia, irregular heartbeat, diarrhea, or nausea. Can interact with other medications. Blood levels must be monitored regularly. Limit caffeine intake. Corticosteroids (These are not the same as the anabolic steroids used by some bodybuilders.) Inhaled: Reduce inflammation and swelling in airways Reduce mucus production Decrease sensitivity of airways to irritants and allergens Swallowed: Reduce inflammation and swelling in airways Reduce mucus production Decrease sensitivity of airways to irritants and allergens Inhaled: beclomethasone dipropionate (QVAR); budesonide (Pulmicort); llunisolide (Areospan HFA); fluticasone propionate (Flovent HFA) Swallowed: methylprednisolone (Medrol); prednisone (many brand names) Inhaled: Very little enters bloodstream, so few side effects. Do not use for fast relief of shortness of breath. Must be used every day; rinse mouth and spit after use. Long-term use may suppress immune system. Do not stop using without consulting your doctor. High doses must be tapered, not stopped abruptly. Swallowed: Enter bloodstream, so may cause insomnia, mood changes, skin bruising, weight gain, stomach problems, high blood pressure, glaucoma, cataracts, osteoporosis, or high blood sugar. Long-term use may suppress immune system. Do not stop using without consulting your doctor. High doses must be tapered, not stopped abruptly. Selective phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors Suppress an enzyme that can cause inflammation in the airways Prevent worsening of COPD in people with severe COPD and chronic bronchitis Swallowed: roflumilast (Daliresp) Should not be used to treat sudden breathing problems. Diarrhea, weight loss, stomach pain, nausea, diminished appetite, headache, or dizziness may occur. Report any new or worsening symptoms to your doctor, such as mood or behavior changes, trouble sleeping, or if you feel impulsive or have disturbing thoughts. Combination medications Combine effects of different types of medication Inhaled: fluticasone propionate plus salmeterol xinafoate (Advair); budesonide plus formoterol fumarate (Symbicort); ipratropium bromide plus albuterol sulfate (Combivent) Varies depending on medication. Does not replace rescue inhaler. Talk with your health care provider. Note: This table is not a complete list of COPD medications and does not imply endorsement of any type or brand. It also does not include all actions, adverse reactions, precautions, side effects, or interactions for these medications. Only your health care provider can prescribe these medications. Talk with your health care provider or pharmacist about the possible side effects and drug or food interactions of any medication you use.