Respiratory Drugs Pharmacology Cheat Sheet

Respiratory Drugs are designed to assist you breathe better while treating different kinds of breathing problems such as wheezing and respiratory shortness. These include inhaling medications with nebulizer devices in a mist-like form. Various kinds of medicines can be recommended by doctors for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, asthma and more. These include the following:

Many respiratory drugs are given by inhalation, although enteral, parenteral, transdermal, or topical routes of administration may be used for some agents. Giving medications by the inhaled route has several advantages over systemic administration: a smaller dose can be used, adverse effects are often reduced, the drug is delivered quickly to lung tissue or the bloodstream, administration is painless, and delivery is usually safe and convenient.


These are the most frequently used inhaled medications. Bronchodilators can be subdivided into sympathomimetic (adrenergic) drugs and parasympatholytic (anticholinergic) drugs, as well as being classified as short acting or long acting. The adrenergic drugs stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, while anticholinergic drugs block the parasympathetic system. Adrenergic agents work to cause bronchodilation; anticholinergic drugs block bronchoconstriction. Short-acting drugs are effective for 4 to 6 hours and long-acting bronchodilators generally last about 12 hours.

Albuterol is a commonly used bronchodilator and is a short-acting ß2-adrenergic agonist (SABA). Salmeterol is delivered in a dry-powder inhaler (DPI) and is a long-acting ß2-adrenergic agonist (LABA). Levalbuterol is the R enantiomer of racemic albuterol and is a frequently used inhaled drug for bronchodilation. This is a single-isomer drug (the other isomer has been removed). More single-isomer medications are being developed and released for use because these drugs tend to reduce adverse effects such as tremors and tachycardia.

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