Mind and Body

New FDA-approved COPD drug helping patients breathe easier

Twenty-four million Americans are living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. While there is no cure for this condition, doctors use medications to control symptoms, reduce complications and better a patient's quality of life. Learn about a new treatment that is helping patients


Janette Seltzer developed a bad habit in the 1950s: She started smoking.

“I started working when you were able to smoke and work, which didn't do me any favors,” Seltzer, a 76-year-old New York resident told FoxNews.com.  “Everybody was doing it. The doctors did it themselves – it was just accepted. Nobody told us, until later on, exactly how dangerous it was.”

At the age of 60, Seltzer’s pulmonologist Dr. Jonathan Raskin, of Beth Israel Medical Center, helped her kick the habit.

But the damage was already done. Seltzer had been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, an “umbrella term” used to describe chronic asthma, bronchitis and emphysema, according to Raskin, who is also director of the Alice Lawrence Center for Health and Rehabilitation.

“It’s primarily caused by smoking,” he added.

Raskin said 24 million Americans have COPD. It develops slowly and symptoms – which include coughing with or without mucous and phlegm, shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness – get worse over time. There is no cure – and no way to reverse lung damage.

“I was coughing up a lot of mucous,” Seltzer said of her experience. “I had trouble breathing.  Being out in the cold was a nightmare.”

However,  Raskin said treatment can control symptoms, reduce risks of complications and improve a patients’ quality of life.

“It’s usually a combination of bronchodilators, inhaled steroids and more novel therapies that can sometimes impact on airway disease, but it’s not one medicine alone,” he said.

Doctors have also started using Combivent Respimat – a new, FDA-approved inhaler that uses a slow-moving mist, which opens the airways and allows patients to breathe easier.

While Seltzer has not started to use the new therapy – she is hopeful it may help her or people like her one day.

Traditional inhalers take much more coordination and studies have shown that COPD patients will often stop using them.

“It's really been daunting for people to get the medication done correctly, and I'm hoping that this is actually going to change that,” Raskin said.

It is recommended that patients take one inhalation up to four times a day. For more information, talk to your doctor or go to combivent.com.