Bronchodilators represent the hallmark of symptomatic treatment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). There are four categories of bronchodilators: anticholinergics, methylxanthines, short-acting β2-agonists, and long-acting β2-agonists such as formoterol. Significant research has been performed to investigate the efficacy, safety and tolerability of formoterol in the therapeutic field of COPD. Formoterol exhibits a rapid onset of bronchodilation similar to that observed with salbutamol, yet its long bronchodilatory duration is comparable to salmeterol. In addition, formoterol presents with a clear superiority in lung function improvement compared with either ipratropium bromide or oral theophylline, while its efficacy improves when administered in combination with ipratropium. Formoterol has been shown to better reduce dynamic hyperinflation, which is responsible for exercise intolerance and dyspnea in COPD patients, compared with other bronchodilators, whereas it exerts synergistic effect with tiotropium. Moreover, formoterol reduces exacerbations, increases days free of use of rescue medication and improves patients' quality of life and disease symptoms. Formoterol has a favorable safety profile and is better tolerated than theophylline. Collectively, data extracted from multicenter clinical trials support formoterol as a valid therapeutic option in the treatment of COPD. © 2008 Dove Medical Press Limited. All rights reserved.
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