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Understanding COPD inhalers

If you’re living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), your doctor or pulmonologist may have prescribed a medicine to help you breathe easier. COPD medicine is often taken through an inhaler and relaxes your airway muscles in order to make breathing easier1.

COPD inhalers can be confusing and many people with COPD may have more than 1 inhaler2. What is the difference between a rescue and controller inhaler?

  • Controller inhalers, also known as maintenance inhalers, prevent and control symptoms and are used on a daily basis as prescribed.
  • Rescue inhalers relieve sudden shortness of breath and are used as needed.

Below are some of the common maintenance/controller and rescue inhalers.

Remember, only your doctor or pulmonologist can prescribe these medicines. You should not use any type of inhaler or medicine without first consulting your doctor.

Select the links below to watch a video and learn more about inhalers


Different types of inhalers:

The links to the above videos are for educational use only and are not indicative of drugs covered by your plan. Please check your drug list to confirm drug coverage.

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  1. “COPD,” Mayo Clinic, last accessed December 5, 2019,, opens new window
  2. “COPD Treatments,” The COPD Foundation, last accessed December 5, 2019,, opens new window