Pharmacologic treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Past, present, and future

Michele A. Faulkner, Daniel E. Hilleman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Pharmacologic treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has evolved considerably during the past several decades. Initial treatment of the disease was accomplished primarily through antibiotics, mucolytic agents, and nonselective sympathomimetic agents. Up-to-date treatment guidelines stratified according to strength of evidence are published in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-World Health Organization workshop report on the Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management, and Prevention of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Current drug therapy for stable COPD focuses primarily on bronchodilation through inhaled β2-agonists and anticholinergic agents, immunization, and elimination of smoking as a risk factor. Although many pharmacologic agents are available to treat COPD, no drug has demonstrated effectiveness in halting progression of the disease. Rather, the goal of drug therapy at this time is to maintain control of symptoms and prevent COPD exacerbations. Compared with asthma, research into treatment for COPD has been minimal. However, a long-acting anticholinergic agent, tiotropium, has received approval status by the United States Food and Drug Administration. The drug has been shown to improve spirometric parameters, quality of life, and utilization of health care resources. In addition, several new targets for the treatment of COPD are being studied, and a few agents, including some that theoretically may slow functional decline in patients with COPD, are in development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1300-1315
Number of pages16
Issue number10 II
StatePublished - Oct 1 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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