Management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: moving beyond the asthma algorithm.
Posted Nov 17 2009 10:02pm
For many years, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was considered a disease of fixed airflow obstruction for which there was no good treatment. Out of desperation and frustration, health care providers extrapolated from asthma to COPD, and standard asthma therapy was adopted without evidence for efficacy. In recent years, we have gained a better understanding of the pathophysiologic differences between asthma and COPD, and prospective controlled trials have provided a rationale for therapy. Smoking cessation is critically important, both as primary prevention and as an effective way to slow the decrease in lung function in patients with established disease. beta(2)-Adrenergic and anticholinergic agonists improve lung function and relieve symptoms in most patients. Tiotropium improves exercise tolerance and quality of life and reduces exacerbations and hospitalizations. The increase in lung function seen with tiotropium is sustained with continued use over at least 3 to 4 years. Inhaled corticosteroids decrease exacerbations and improve quality of life, and their effect seems greatest in patients with lower lung function and in exacerbation-prone patients.