What medications are used to treat asthma?
George Schiffman, MD, FCCP, FACS
Epinephrine and ephedrine once were the only effective medications for treating asthma. Beginning in the 1980s, newer medications were introduced that target more of the abnormal conditions in asthma and do so more effectively than epinephrine or ephedrine. For example, prescription inhaler forms of beta2-agonists such as albuterol and metaproterenol (Proventil and Alupent); corticosteroids such as beclomethasone and flunisolide (Beclovent and Aerobid); anticholinergics such as ipratropium bromide (Atrovent); and other medicines are now widely used because of their greater effectiveness and fewer side effects. The use of inhaled anti-inflammatory medications that include steroid agents such as fluticasone, budesonide, beclomethasone, and flunisolide have become the mainstay of initial asthma therapy. Unfortunately, these medications are not available without a prescription.