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How effective are inhaled long-acting beta-agonists?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

LABAs reduce symptoms and flare-ups and improve quality of life. But they do not help people with COPD live longer. These drugs provide the greatest benefit to people who show improved lung function when given a beta-agonist during a spirometry test. Formoterol works more quickly and lasts longer than salmeterol. Formoterol provides greater improvement in lung function than anticholinergic bronchodilators or theophylline.

LABAs are sometimes prescribed in combination with an inhaled corticosteroid. Studies show that these combinations are more effective than either drug alone. They improve COPD symptoms, but do not stop the disease or improve survival. Combination therapy is usually prescribed when a LABA alone does not help.

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