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Cystic Fibrosis - Medications

Medicines for cystic fibrosis help keep the lungs as healthy as possible, reduce and control mucus in the lungs, and replace digestive enzymes.

Medicine choices

Medicines to treat infections

Medicines to open airways in the lungs or keep them open

  • Bronchodilators (such as albuterol or salmeterol), which are used to make breathing easier. They may also make it easier to cough up mucus.
  • Anticholinergics (such as Atrovent)

Medicines to control the amount and thickness of mucus

  • DNase (such as Pulmozyme). It is used to thin mucus in the lungs.
  • Mucolytics (such as acetylcysteine), to thin mucus in the lungs and the intestines. These aren't used very much, though, because they can irritate the lungs.
  • Saltwater solution (hypertonic saline). This is sometimes used to help clear mucus from the lungs. It is low-cost, and it may help reduce inflammation in the airways.1, 2

Medicines to reduce inflammation

Medicines to replace the effect of digestive enzymes

A small number of people with cystic fibrosis have a certain changed (mutated) gene called the G551D mutation. If you have this changed gene and you are age 6 or older, the medicine ivacaftor (Kalydeco) can target the genetic cause of your lung problems and may help improve lung function. Talk to your doctor if you want more information about it.

What to think about

Some medicines work better for some people than for others. A medicine that works well for one person may not work for someone else. It can take time to find the medicines that work best for you or your child.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: July 18, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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