Continuing Medical Education

Pharmacological management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

E Shaddock, G Richards

Abstract


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: (i) assess and monitor disease; (ii) reduce
risk factors; (iii) manage stable COPD; and (iv) 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 abovementioned medications. For patients who still have frequent exacerbations,
alternative choices include long-term macrolides and phosphodiesterase 4 inhibitors.


Authors' affiliations

E Shaddock, Division of Pulmonology and Critical Care, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand and Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa

G Richards, Critical Care, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand and Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2015;105(9):790. DOI:10.7196/SAMJnew.8426

Article History

Date submitted: 2015-09-15
Date published: 2015-09-15

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