Bronchodilators, generally administered via metered dose or dry powder inhalers, are the mainstays of pharmacological treatment of stable COPD. Inhaled long-acting beta-agonists (LABA) and anticholinergics are the bronchodilators primarily used in the chronic treatment of COPD. Anticholinergics
act as muscarinic acetylcholine receptor antagonists and are frequently preferred over beta-agonists for their minimal cardiac stimulatory effects and greater efficacy in most studies. Their therapeutic efficacy is based on the fact that vagally mediated bronchoconstriction is the major reversible
component of airflow obstruction in patients with COPD. However, bronchodilators are effective only on the reversible component of airflow obstruction, which by definition is limited, as COPD is characterized by a fixed or poorly reversible airflow obstruction. Inhaled anticholinergic antimuscarinic
drugs approved for the treatment of COPD include ipratropium bromide, oxitropium bromide and tiotropium bromide. Ipratropium bromide, the prototype of anticholinergic bronchodilators, is a short-acting agent. Oxitropium bromide is administered twice a day. Tiotropium bromide, the only long-acting
antimuscarinic agent (LAMA) currently approved, is administered once a day. Newer LAMAs including aclidinium bromide and glycopyrrolate bromide are currently in phase III development for treatment of COPD. Some new LAMAs, including glycocpyrrolate, are suitable for once daily administration
and, unlike tiotropium, have a rapid onset of action. New LAMAs and their combination with ultra-LABA and, possibly, inhaled corticosteroids, seem to open new perspectives in the management of COPD. Dual-pharmacology muscarinic antagonist-beta2 agonist (MABA) molecules present a novel approach
to the treatment of COPD by combining muscarinic antagonism and beta2 agonism in a single molecule.
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