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What is Tiotropium?

By Bryan Cowing
Updated Feb 15, 2024
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Tiotropium is a medication used to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This medication comes in capsule form in blister packs; to use tiotropium, you must remove the capsule from the pack and insert it into the inhaler. Once in the inhaler, it is pierced and the inhaler can deliver a stream of the medication into the lungs. If you are interested in discussing tiotropium with your doctor, it's a good idea to research how it is used, how it works, the possible side effects, the dosing information and how to store the medicine.

While tiotropium is used to manage COPD, it is not recommended as a treatment for an acute asthma attack. Even though the medication arrives in capsules, it must not be taken orally. Tiotropium is formulated to be absorbed through the mucous membranes of the lungs. If taken orally, the medication will not work and can even cause stomach discomfort and pain.

Tiotropium works by calming the smooth muscles inside the lung. The chemicals in tiotropium fill what are called muscarinic receptors. By filling these receptors, the medicine prevents irritants from overstimulating the lungs. Breathing difficulties related to COPD are caused by muscle spasms, so calming these muscles is an effective way to prevent breathing difficulties.

As with any medication, tiotropium can cause unwanted effects. Unlikely but serious side effects include difficulty breathing, chest pain and vision changes. If any of these side effects occurs, a healthcare provider should be notified immediately. Some of the more common but less serious side effects include stuffy nose, constipation and stomach pain. While these side effects are not as serious as those on the first list, it is still a good idea to talk to a doctor if they become bothersome.

The dosing for tiotropium is the same for everyone. While some medication varies depending on age, weight or gender, tiotropium requires one capsule to be inhaled once a day. It may take more than one inhalation to completely use the capsule, but it is still considered one dose. Each capsule contains 18 micrograms of tiotropium.

Tiotropium capsules should be left in their original blister packaging until they are used. They should not be left exposed to air for any longer than it takes to insert the capsule into the inhaler. Tiotropium should never be left where a child could come into contact with it. Tiotropium should be stored at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.

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