7 Questions to Ask Your Doctor and Pharmacist About COPD Medications



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Today’s Medications Can Be Very Effective… If You Understand How To Use Them Correctly.

If you’ve been diagnosed with COPD (chronic pulmonary obstructive disease) your doctor has probably prescribed medications to help manage your condition. COPD medications can prevent you from experiencing excessive cough and shortness of breath and reduce mucus buildup. 

But to ensure the medications work most effectively, you must take them as prescribed. 

However, research reveals that three out of four Americans do not take their medication as prescribed, which can lead to COPD worsening and even trips to the hospital.

Lesley Williams, Apria’s Market Clinical Trainer and a registered respiratory therapist, says, “When you are prescribed any medication, it’s important that you know as much about it as possible.”

So be sure to ask your doctor and pharmacist the following 7 key questions.

1. What Are the Most Common COPD Medications?

Although they can’t cure COPD, a variety of medications can effectively treat it. If you’ve received a prescription for any of the following, be sure to ask for more information:

  • Broncho-dilators include beta2-agonists and anticholinergics.
  • Anti-inflammatories reduce mucus production and swelling in your airways.
  • Corticosteroids work quickly if you are having a COPD flare-up.
  • Leukotriene modifiers relieve muscle tightness and decrease inflammation.
  • Combination medications combine different drugs to treat COPD.
  • Expectorants moisten the airways and thin mucus so you can cough it out more easily.
  • Antibiotics treat infections or speed recovery from an illness.
  • Antihistamines dry air passages to relieve stuffy heads, watery eyes, and sneezing.
  • Antivirals treat or prevent illnesses caused by viruses such as the flu, which is dangerous for people with COPD.
  • Vaccines prevent infections, such as flu and pneumonia.

Medication is generally delivered by a nebulizer, inhaler, or pill.

2. How Do I Use My Nebulizer?

A nebulizer is a small device that turns liquid medicine into a fine mist that you inhale through a mouthpiece or mask. This delivers the medicine directly into your lungs.

Nebulizers are fairly easy to use—but they still require some training. Ask your providers about the correct method of using a nebulizer as well as how to clean and care for your device. This helps prevent bacteria from forming and reduces your risk of infection.

3. How Do I Use My Inhaler?

An inhaler is a small, hand-held device that delivers medicine very quickly, usually in a few puffs over a few minutes. Unlike nebulizers, inhalers don’t require a mouthpiece or mask. 

To get the maximum benefit of your inhaler, you must use it correctly. However, studies show that many people don’t. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to show you the proper way to use an inhaler.

4. What Are the Side Effects of My Medication?

Medications approved by the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) are generally safe. But all medications carry the risk of causing side effects. 

"For instance, some steroids and bronchodilators may cause blurry vision, dry mouth, tremors, or a fast heartbeat,” states Apria’s Lesley Williams.

Side effects vary with each medication, so be sure to ask your doctor and pharmacist to explain them to you.

5. Will My COPD Medications Affect Other Medications I Am Taking?  

Some medications may impact the effectiveness of other medications. When visiting your doctor or pharmacist, have a list of all your medications, including over-the-counter medications and vitamins or supplements you are taking, and ask if your COPD medications will cause any harmful drug interactions.

6. What About Taking My COPD Medication with Food?

Ask if you should be taking your medication on a full or empty stomach. Also, if there are certain foods and drinks to avoid. Your care team can even help create an eating schedule to help you avoid any confusion.

7. When Should I Take My Medication?

When you take your medication depends on the type of medication you are taking. Some are short-acting and work quickly. These are often used in emergencies or before exercise. 

Others are long-acting and are taken each day to help keep your symptoms from getting worse.

Be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist the right time to take your medication.

Asking Questions Provides the Answer to Effective COPD Treatment

You, your doctor, and your pharmacist are a team working together to help you control your symptoms, reduce the risk of flare-ups, and increase your overall health and well-being. So if you have questions or need information, don’t hesitate to ask. Apria’s Lesley Williams adds, “The more you know about your COPD medications, the more effective your COPD treatment will be.” 

We provide medications through the Apria Pharmacy Network. Learn more here.


1. Questions To Ask Your Doctor or Pharmacist About Your COPD Medications. University of Maryland Medical System. https://health.umms.org/2022/02/22/copd-medications-questions/.
2. 5 Ways to Manage Your COPD Medications Better. University of Maryland Medical System. https://health.umms.org/2021/11/11/manage-copd-medications/.
3. (Updated 2021, April 8). COPD: Medications. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/14277-copd-medications.
4. 9 things to discuss with your pharmacist about your COPD meds. Philips.
5. (Updated 2022, November 26). COPD - what to ask your doctor. Mount Sinai. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/questions-to-ask-your-doctor/copd-what-to-ask-your-doctor.
6. Questions to Ask Your Doctor About COPD. American Lung Association.
7. Gwinn, A. (2020, April 3). 10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About COPD Treatment. HealthCentral. https://www.healthcentral.com/article/copd-treatment-questions.

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About the AuthorApria

Apria is a leading provider of home healthcare equipment and related services across the USA, offering a comprehensive range of products and services for in-home care and delivery of respiratory therapy, obstructive sleep apnea treatment, and negative pressure wound therapy, along with additional equipment and services.