How does Spiriva help COPD patients?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 17, 2016
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How does Spiriva help COPD patients?

Expert Answers

Loutfi S. Aboussouan is a staff physician for the Cleveland Clinic's Respiratory Institute and Neurological Institute. He is board certified in internal medicine, pulmonary disease, critical care medicine, and sleep medicine and directs the pulmonary curriculum for the second-year class of the Cleveland Clinic Lerner School of Medicine.

Spiriva is the brand name for the medication tiotropium. It works by relaxing airway narrowing in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or chronic bronchitis. The usual symptoms for which it would be used are wheezing, prevention of wheezing, shortness of breath, and cough. A couple of important points: tiotropium is not effective for a sudden attack of wheezing or shortness of breath, and its effect may build up slowly, so it may take a few weeks to feel the full benefits.

In addition to improving lung function, tiotropium works by improving well-being (health-related quality of life) and reducing flares of COPD (we also call those "exacerbations" where cough, shortness of breath and phlegm increase). This may translate into less need for antibiotics and less need to be admitted to the hospital. In some recent studies, tiotropium was found to decrease the risk of death.