Bronchodilators are central in the treatment of of airways disorders. They are the mainstay of the current management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and are critical in the symptomatic management of asthma, although controversies around the use of these drugs remain. Bronchodilators work through their direct relaxation effect on airway smooth muscle cells. at present, three major classes of bronchodilators, β(2)-adrenoceptor (AR) agonists, muscarinic receptor antagonists, and xanthines are available and can be used individually or in combination. The use of the inhaled route is currently preferred to minimize systemic effects. Fast- and short-acting agents are best used for rescue of symptoms, whereas long-acting agents are best used for maintenance therapy. It has proven difficult to discover novel classes of bronchodilator drugs, although potential new targets are emerging. Consequently, the logical approach has been to improve the existing bronchodilators, although several novel broncholytic classes are under development. An important step in simplifying asthma and COPD management and improving adherence with prescribed therapy is to reduce the dose frequency to the minimum necessary to maintain disease control. Therefore, the incorporation of once-daily dose administration is an important strategy to improve adherence. Several once-daily β(2)-AR agonists or ultra-long-acting β(2)-AR-agonists (LABAs), such as indacaterol, olodaterol, and vilanterol, are already in the market or under development for the treatment of COPD and asthma, but current recommendations suggest the use of LABAs only in combination with an inhaled corticosteroid. In addition, some new potentially long-acting antimuscarinic agents, such as glycopyrronium bromide (NVA-237), aclidinium bromide, and umeclidinium bromide (GSK573719), are under development, as well as combinations of several classes of long-acting bronchodilator drugs, in an attempt to simplify treatment regimens as much as possible. This review will describe the pharmacology and therapeutics of old, new, and emerging classes of bronchodilator.
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