n South African Medical Journal - Pharmacological management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease : article

Volume 105, Issue 9
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



There have been significant changes in the approach to the management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) over the past decade. The World Health Organization suggests four components to a COPD management plan: () assess and monitor disease; () reduce risk factors; () manage stable COPD; and () manage exacerbations. Encouraging patients to limit their risk exposure is essential, whether it be smoking cessation or removing exposure to biomass. The main objective of treatment is to relieve daily symptoms, improve quality of life and importantly decrease the risk of future exacerbations. Current guidelines are based on grade A and B evidence. Pneumococcal and annual influenza vaccinations are encouraged. A holistic approach that augments pharmacological treatment includes good nutrition and pulmonary rehabilitation. Bronchodilators are the cornerstone of management. Depending on the patient's placement in the GOLD ABCD classification, treatment is individualised. Short-acting bronchodilators are used as rescue medication, while long-acting bronchodilators or/and long-acting muscarinic agents are the treatment of choice for patients in groups B, C and D. Inhaled corticosteroids are only recommended for groups C and D. Most patients respond well to combinations of the above mentioned medications. For patients who still have frequent exacerbations, alternative choices include long-term macrolides and phosphodiesterase 4 inhibitors.

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