The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Thursday the approval of a new long-term therapy to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The drug, Anoro Ellipta, was approved as a once-daily therapy for COPD.

Anoro Ellipta is an inhaled powder that contains a combination of umeclidinium, an anticholinergic drug, and vilanterol, a long-acting beta2-adrenergic agonist (LABA). The drug stops the muscles around the large airways from tightening, while relaxing the muscles of the airways to improve breathing, according to the FDA.

According to the drug's maker, GlaxoSmithKline, the drug was tested in more than 2,400 people with COPD. Those who were treated with the drug showed improved lung function compared with those who took a placebo.

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Asthma Danger with LABAs

Anoro Ellipta and other LABAs increase the risk of death in patients with asthma. The FDA stressed that Anoro Ellipta has not been proven safe and effective for the treatment of asthma.

It should also not be used as a rescue inhaler for acute bronchospasms and other sudden breathing problems.

Dr. James T. C. Li, an asthma and allergy specialist at the Mayo Clinic, wrote that the risk of asthma-related death appears to be greatest when a LABA is used without also using an inhaled corticosteroid.

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What Are the Side Effects of Anoro Ellipta?

According to FDA-approved instructions for Anoro Ellipta, the most common side effects associated with the drug include:

  • sore throat
  • sinus infection
  • lower respiratory tract infection
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • pain in the extremities
  • muscle spasms
  • chest and neck pain

Possible serious side effects include:

  • narrowing and obstruction of the respiratory airway (paradoxical bronchospasm)
  • cardiovascular effects
  • increased pressure in the eyes (acute narrow-angle glaucoma)
  • worsening of urinary retention

What Is COPD?

COPD refers to a group of lung conditions, the two most common of which are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. These conditions cause inflammation that blocks airflow coming in and out of the lungs, which can make breathing difficult.

While COPD is most common in smokers, it’s also a problem for women in developing countries who are regularly exposed to smoke and fumes from cooking or improperly ventilated indoor heating, according to the Mayo Clinic. About 20 percent of tobacco smokers develop COPD.

While lung damage from COPD cannot be undone, there are several treatments available to ease the symptoms.