Inhaled bronchodilators, including beta2-agonists and antimuscaric receptor antagonists, are the mainstay of pharmacotherapy in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The short-acting beta2-agonists, including salbutamol, and fenoterol, have a rapid onset of action, a bronchodilating
effect for 3-6 h and are used on demand. The longacting beta2-agonists (LABAs), including salmeterol and formoterol, have 12-hour duration of action and are used with a twice-daily dosing regimen for long-term COPD treatment. Unlike salmeterol, formoterol has a rapid onset of action. Pharmacological
characteristics required by novel inhaled LABAs include 24 h bronchodilator effect in vivo which would make them suitable for once daily administration (ultra-LABA), high potency and selectivity for beta2-adrenoceptors, rapid onset of action, low oral bioavailability (< 5%) after inhalation,
and high systemic clearance. Indacaterol, which has been approved for long-term treatment of COPD in Europe and in the USA, has a 24-h duration of action and a once-daily dosing regimen. Newer ultra-LABAs, including olodaterol, vilanterol, milveterol, carmoterol, and abediterol, are in development.
Combination with ICS (fluticasone/salmeterol, budesonide/formoterol, beclomethasone/formoterol) appears to provide an additional benefit over the monocomponent therapy, although the extent of this benefit is variable and often not clinically significant in all the endpoints assessed. In patients
with COPD, treatment with ICS is associated with increased risk of pneumonia which should be carefully considered when assessing the risk/benefit ratio of ICS/LABA combinations. Subphenotyping of patients with COPD (e.g., frequent exacerbations, sputum eosinophilia, mixed asthma/COPD phenotype)
might help identify those patients who are most likely to benefit from addition of ICS to bronchodilating treatment. Ultra-LABA/ long-acting muscarinic receptor antagonist (LAMA) combination treatment is under development and is likely to become a standard pharmacological strategy for COPD.
Dual-pharmacology inhaled muscarinic antagonist-beta2 agonist (MABA) molecules provide a new approach to the treatment of COPD.
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