Merck Manual

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Drugs Commonly Used to Treat Asthma

Drugs Commonly Used to Treat Asthma

Drug

Some Side Effects

Comments

Anticholinergics (inhaled)

Ipratropium

Tiotropium

Dry mouth

Rapid heart rate

Usually used in combination with a beta-adrenergic drug

Short-acting beta-adrenergic drugs (inhaled)

Albuterol

Levalbuterol

Increased heart rate

Shakiness

For immediate relief of acute attack

Albuterol also available in oral preparation

Long-acting beta-adrenergic drugs (inhaled)

Arformoterol

Formoterol

Salmeterol

Increased heart rate

Shakiness

For ongoing treatment, not for acute relief

Not recommended for use alone (without other asthma drugs)

Ultra–long-acting beta-adrenergic drugs (inhaled)

Indacaterol

Olodaterol

Vilanterol

Runny nose and sneezing

High blood pressure

Cough

Headache

Not recommended for use alone (without other asthma drugs).

Vilanterol available only in combination with fluticasone

Corticosteroids (inhaled)

Beclomethasone

Budesonide

Ciclesonide

Flunisolide

Fluticasone furoate

Fluticasone propionate

Mometasone

Triamcinolone

Fungal infection of the mouth (thrush)

A change in the voice

Inhaled for prevention (long-term control) of asthma

Corticosteroids (oral or injection)

Methylprednisolone

Prednisolone

Prednisone

Weight gain

Elevated blood sugar levels

Rarely, psychosis

Osteoporosis

Cataracts

Skin thinning and easy bruising

Insomnia

Used for acute asthma attacks and for asthma that cannot be controlled with inhaled therapy

Immunomodulators (injection)

Benralizumab

Dupilumab

Mepolizumab

Omalizumab

Reslizumab

Discomfort at the injection site

Rarely, anaphylactic reactions

Used in people with severe asthma to decrease use of oral corticosteroids

Leukotriene modifiers (oral)

Montelukast

Zafirlukast

Zileuton

Eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis

With zileuton, elevated liver enzymes

Used more for prevention (long-term control) than for treatment

Mast cell stabilizers (inhaled)

Cromolyn

Nedocromil

Coughing or wheezing

Useful for preventing attacks, often related to exercise, but not for treatment of an acute attack

Nedocromil not available in the United States

Methylxanthine (oral)

Theophylline

Increased heart rate

Shakiness

Stomach upset

Seizures (if the blood level is high)

Serious heartbeat irregularities (if the blood level is high)

Can be used for prevention and treatment

Taken by mouth but can be given intravenously in a hospital