Dr. Richard Hoffmann, Ask the Pharmacist, 12/25/12

-A A +A

Inhaler treats chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

By Richard Hoffmann

Q: I heard about a new inhaled medication for treating chronic bronchitis and emphysema. What can you tell me about it?

A: Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. People with chronic bronchitis have a persistent cough that produces sputum and is caused by inflammation in the airways.

There is also scarring and swelling of the airways along with smooth muscle contraction or bronchospasm.

Emphysema is an enlargement of the tiny air sacs in the lungs and the destruction of their walls. Both of these conditions produce obstruction to airflow and difficulty breathing. Symptoms of COPD include cough, sputum production and shortness of breath. These symptoms may worsen if the person develops a respiratory tract infection.

An estimated 24 million Americans suffer from COPD, with over 50 percent under the age of 65. However, more than 95 percent of all deaths from COPD occur in people older than 55.

It is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, and is projected to become the third leading fatal illness by 2020. Smoking is a major cause of COPD, and about 10 percent to 15 percent of smokers develop this condition.

The newly approved treatment for patient with COPD is called TudorzaPressair and contains the drug aclidinium.

Aclidinium is known as an antimuscarinic or anticholinergic medication. When inhaled into the airways, it helps to relax the airways’ smooth muscle and expand them making it easier to breathe.

The most common side effects reported by patients using TudorzaPressair during clinical studies were headache, inflammation of the nasal passage, and cough.

However, it may also cause some serious side effects, including bronchospasm, increased pressure in the eye (glaucoma) or urinary retention.

TurdorzaPressair should only be used for the maintenance treatment of COPD and not as a rescue medication. It comes as a dry powder that is used as an oral inhaler twice a day.

Richard P. Hoffmann, Pharm.D., has been a pharmacist for more than 40 years. Send questions to him at 2960 E. Coventry Court, Hernando, FL 34442.