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Asthma Library: Prevention and Care

Asthma Medications

There are four major classes of drugs used in the treatment of asthma. The first class is the bronchodilators, or rescue medications, for treatment of acute attacks. Others include corticosteroids and antimediators, both anti-inflammatory medications, which are used to prevent an attack. The fourth is a new asthma treatment called leukotriene inhibitors which work to block the substances (leukotrienes) which provoke inflammation.

Asthma Medications

How it works

How it is administered



Albuterol (Proventil, Ventolin)

Salmeterol (Serevent)

Metaproterenol (Alupent, Metaprel)

Bitolerol (Tornalate)

Pirbuterol (Maxair)

Terbutaline (Brethaire)

Isoetharine (Bronkometer, Bronkosol)

Isoproterenol (Isuprel)



Ipratropium bromide (Atrovent)

Theophylline, oral


Relaxes the muscles around the airways without correcting the underlying inflammation

  • Metered-dose inhaler
  • Nebulizer
  • Liquid or tablet
  • Injected


Beclomethasone dipropionate (Beclovent)

Triamcinolone acetonide

Flunisolide (AeroBid)


Methylprednisone sodium succinate

Hydrocortisone sodium succinate

Prevents and reduces swelling inside the airways.

Decreases the mucus in the lungs

  • Metered-dose inhaler
  • Nebulizer
  • Liquid or tablet
  • Injected


Cromolyn sodium (Intal)

Nedocromil sodium (Tilade)

Prevents and reduces swelling inside the airways

Decreases the mucus in the lungs

Stops the effects of environmental irritants or allergens (including after exercise and after exposure to cold air and sulfur dioxide)

  • Metered-dose inhaler
  • Dry powder inhaler
  • Nebulizer

Leukotriene Inhibitors (Singulair)

Blocks the substances (leukotrienes) involved in inflammation

  • Tablet

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