Harnessing the clinical efficacy of phosphodiesterase 4 inhibitors in inflammatory lung diseases: dual-selective phosphodiesterase inhibitors and novel combination therapies

Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2011;(204):415-46. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-17969-3_18.


Phosphodiesterase (PDE) 4 inhibitors have been in development as a novel anti-inflammatory therapy for more than 20 years, with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) being primary indications. Despite initial optimism, only one selective PDE4 inhibitor, roflumilast (Daxas (®)), has been approved for use in humans and available in Canada and the European Union in 2011 for the treatment of a specific population of patients with severe COPD. In many other cases, the development of PDE4 inhibitors of various structural classes has been discontinued due to lack of efficacy and/or dose-limiting adverse events. Indeed, for many of these compounds, it is likely that the maximum tolerated dose is either subtherapeutic or at the very bottom of the efficacy dose-response curve. Thus, a significant ongoing challenge that faces the pharmaceutical industry is to synthesize compounds with therapeutic ratios that are superior to roflumilast. Several strategies are being considered, but clinically effective compounds with an optimal pharmacophore have not, thus far, been reported. In this chapter, alternative means of harnessing the clinical efficacy of PDE4 inhibitors are described. These concepts are based on the assumption that additive or synergistic anti-inflammatory effects can be produced with inhibitors that target either two or more PDE families or with a PDE4 inhibitor in combination with other anti-inflammatory drugs such as a glucocorticoid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-2 Receptor Agonists / administration & dosage
  • Cyclic AMP / physiology
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Phosphodiesterase 4 Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Phosphodiesterase 4 Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors / administration & dosage*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy*


  • Adrenergic beta-2 Receptor Agonists
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Phosphodiesterase 4 Inhibitors
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors
  • Cyclic AMP