Bronchodilators such as β2 agonists and methylxanthines provide relief from asthma attacks and intermittent asthma symptoms, but do not treat the underlying inflammation associated with the disease.

Short-acting β2 agonists are used to provide relief from acute symptoms associated with asthma attacks and bronchoconstriction. They are not used to maintain long-term asthma control and are recommended only for symptom relief.1

Long-acting β2 agonists (LABAs) elicit bronchodilation and maintain long-term asthma control,1 but should only be delivered together with controller medications (such as an inhaled corticosteroid) due to evidence suggesting an increased risk of severe exacerbation of asthma symptoms in some patients.2

The side effects of β2 agonists arise from unwanted systemic effects of these drugs on β2 receptors outside the lungs, and include headache, heart palpitations and difficulty sleeping.

* In 2010, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety communication that LABAs should only be used together with asthma controller medications and for the shortest period of time required to achieve asthma control. The regulatory body recommend that once asthma is controlled, patients should be maintained on controller medications if possible.2

For further information please refer to the full FDA Drug Safety Communication available here.

  1. The Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) Global Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention. Available from: 2012
  2. FDA Drug Safety Communication: New safety requirements for long-acting inhaled asthma medications called Long-Acting Beta-Agonists (LABAs). 2010. Last accessed 15 January 2014. 
Loading ...