Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a disease state characterised by airflow limitation that is not fully reversible. The airflow limitation is usually progressive and associated with an abnormal inflammatory response of the lungs to noxious particles or gases. Classically, it is thought to be a combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis, although only one of these may be present in some people with COPD. The main risk factor for the development and deterioration of COPD is smoking.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical questions: What are the effects of maintenance drug treatment in stable COPD? What are the effects of maintenance drug treatment in stable COPD? What are the effects of non-drug interventions in people with stable COPD? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to February 2007 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically, please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
We found 83 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
In this systematic review we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: alpha1 antitrypsin, antibiotics (prophylactic), anticholinergics (inhaled), beta2 agonists (inhaled), corticosteroids (oral and inhaled), general physical activity enhancement, inspiratory muscle training, maintaining healthy weight, mucolytics, oxygen treatment (long-term domiciliary treatment), peripheral muscle strength training, psychosocial and pharmacological interventions for smoking cessation, pulmonary rehabilitation, and theophylline.
The main risk factor for the development and deterioration of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is smoking.
Inhaled anticholinergics and beta2 agonists improve lung function and symptoms and reduce exacerbations in stable COPD compared with placebo.
It is unclear whether inhaled anticholinergics or inhaled beta2 agonists are the more consistently effective drug class in the treatment of COPD.Short-acting anticholinergics seem to be associated with a small improvement in quality of life compared with beta2 agonists.
Long-acting inhaled anticholinergic drugs may improve lung function compared with long-acting beta2 agonists.Combined treatment with inhaled anticholinergics and beta2 agonists may improve symptoms and lung function and reduce exacerbations compared with either treatment alone, although long-term effects are unknown.
Inhaled corticosteroids reduce exacerbations in COPD and reduce decline in FEV1, but the beneficial effects are small.
Oral corticosteroids may improve short-term lung function, but have serious adverse effects.
Combined inhaled corticosteroids plus long-acting beta2 agonists improve lung function and symptoms and reduce exacerbations compared with placebo, and may be more effective than either treatment alone.
Long-term domiciliary oxygen treatment may improve survival in people with severe daytime hypoxaemia.
Theophylline may improve lung function compared with placebo, but adverse effects limit their usefulness in stable COPD.
We don't know whether mucolytic drugs, prophylactic antibiotics, or alpha1 antitrypsin improve outcomes in people with COPD compared with placebo.
Combined psychosocial and pharmacological interventions for smoking cessation can slow the deterioration of lung function, but have not been shown to reduce long-term mortality compared with usual care.
Multi-modality pulmonary rehabilitation and exercises can improve exercise capacity in people with stable COPD, but nutritional supplementation has not been shown to be beneficial.