Expectorants for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)


Generic Name Brand Name
guaifenesin Mucinex

Guaifenesin is available in tablet, capsule, or liquid form. Your doctor will help you decide which form is best for you.

How It Works

Expectorants may keep mucus from sticking to the airways of the lungs, making it easier to cough the mucus up. Expectorants may not help people with COPD and are no longer commonly used.

Why It Is Used

Expectorants may be used in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) when it is difficult to cough up mucus from the lungs. But expectorants are not commonly recommended for COPD treatment.1

How Well It Works

Expectorants may bring some relief from symptoms, but there is no evidence that they improve lung function.2

Side Effects

Some people who use guaifenesin experience nausea, vomiting, dizziness, rash, and itching.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

The best way to reduce development of mucus is to stop smoking.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) (2005). Executive summary (updated 2005). In Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management, and Prevention of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Available online: http://www.goldcopd.com/GuidelinesResources.asp?I1=2&I2=0.
  2. Barnes PJ (2000). Nonantimicrobial aspects of therapy. Seminars in Respiratory Infections, 15(1): 52–58.

Last Updated: May 8, 2008

Author: Maria G. Essig, MS, ELS & Cynthia Tank

Medical Review: Caroline S. Rhoads, MD - Internal Medicine & Ken Y. Yoneda, MD - Pulmonology

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