New therapeutic drugs in the management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease remains a major health problem for which new and improved treatments are desperately needed. Recent trials strongly suggest that treatments are improving. Longer-acting bronchodilators will be more convenient and may have additional advantages. Combinations of bronchodilators may offer additive effects and, possibly, synergies. Inhaled glucocorticoids, although unable to alter the loss of forced expiratory volume in 1 second when used alone, may reduce exacerbation frequency and health status deterioration and improve mortality. These clinically meaningful goals represent end points not previously targeted in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease drug development. Moreover, inhaled glucocorticoids may offer benefits in combination with long-acting β-agonists. Finally, new classes of agents such as the phosphodiesterase inhibitors are on the horizon. The prospect for better treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease looks brighter than ever. Caution is required, however. Much of the excitement has been generated by small studies, presented only in abstract form, and as yet unpublished work. Therapeutic recommendations will require publication of appropriately designed and adequately powered clinical trials.

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