Pharmacology and therapeutics of bronchodilators revisited

M. G. Matera, C. P. Page, L. Calzetta, P. Rogliani, M. Cazzola*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

101 Citations (Scopus)


Bronchodilators remain the cornerstone of the treatment of airway disorders such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). There is therefore considerable interest in understanding how to optimize the use of our existing classes of bronchodilator and in identifying novel classes of bronchodilator drugs. However, new classes of bronchodilator have proved challenging to develop because many of these have no better efficacy than existing classes of bronchodilator and often have unacceptable safety profiles. Recent research has shown that optimization of bronchodilation occurs when both arms of the autonomic nervous system are affected through antagonism of muscarinic receptors to reduce the influence of parasympathetic innervation of the lung and through stimulation of b2-adrenoceptors (b2-ARs) on. airway smooth muscle with b2-AR–selective agonists to mimic the sympathetic influence on the lung. This is currently achieved by use of fixed-dose combinations of inhaled long-acting b2-adrenoceptor agonists (LABAs) and long-acting muscarinic acetylcholine receptor antagonists (LAMAs). Due to the distinct mechanisms of action of LAMAs and LABAs, the additive/synergistic effects of using these drug classes together has been extensively investigated. More recently, so-called “triple inhalers” containing fixed-dose combinations of both classes of bronchodilator (dual bronchodilation) and an inhaled corticosteroid in the same inhaler have been developed. Furthermore, a number of so-called “bifunctional drugs” having two different primary pharmacological actions in the same molecule are under development. This review discusses recent advancements in knowledge on bronchodilators and bifunctional drugs for the treatment of asthma and COPD. Significance Statement——Since our last review in 2012, there has been considerable research to identify novel classes of bronchodilator drugs, to further understand how to optimize the use of the existing classes of bronchodilator, and to better understand the role of bifunctional drugs in the treatment of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-252
Number of pages35
JournalPharmacological Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'Pharmacology and therapeutics of bronchodilators revisited'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this