Background: This document provides clinical recommendations for the pharmacologic treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It represents a collaborative effort on the part of a panel of expert COPD clinicians and researchers along with a team of methodologists under the guidance of the American Thoracic Society.Methods: Comprehensive evidence syntheses were performed on all relevant studies that addressed the clinical questions and critical patient-centered outcomes agreed upon by the panel of experts. The evidence was appraised, rated, and graded, and recommendations were formulated using the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation approach.Results: After weighing the quality of evidence and balancing the desirable and undesirable effects, the guideline panel made the following recommendations: 1) a strong recommendation for the use of long-acting β2-agonist (LABA)/long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA) combination therapy over LABA or LAMA monotherapy in patients with COPD and dyspnea or exercise intolerance; 2) a conditional recommendation for the use of triple therapy with inhaled corticosteroids (ICS)/LABA/LAMA over dual therapy with LABA/LAMA in patients with COPD and dyspnea or exercise intolerance who have experienced one or more exacerbations in the past year; 3) a conditional recommendation for ICS withdrawal for patients with COPD receiving triple therapy (ICS/LABA/LAMA) if the patient has had no exacerbations in the past year; 4) no recommendation for or against ICS as an additive therapy to long-acting bronchodilators in patients with COPD and blood eosinophilia, except for those patients with a history of one or more exacerbations in the past year requiring antibiotics or oral steroids or hospitalization, for whom ICS is conditionally recommended as an additive therapy; 5) a conditional recommendation against the use of maintenance oral corticosteroids in patients with COPD and a history of severe and frequent exacerbations; and 6) a conditional recommendation for opioid-based therapy in patients with COPD who experience advanced refractory dyspnea despite otherwise optimal therapy.Conclusions: The task force made recommendations regarding the pharmacologic treatment of COPD based on currently available evidence. Additional research in populations that are underrepresented in clinical trials is needed, including studies in patients with COPD 80 years of age and older, those with multiple chronic health conditions, and those with a codiagnosis of COPD and asthma.
Keywords: COPD; dyspnea; exacerbation; pharmacotherapy; steroids.