What's the difference between the different kinds of asthma medications?
There are eight general types of medications used to treat asthma. Some are considered
long-term control medications; they are used daily to prevent asthma symptoms and attacks.
Others are quick-relief medications, used in the event of an asthma attack.
Long-term control medication controls inflammation and swelling in the lungs' airways. Patients are directed to take this type of medication every day-even if they are feeling fine. There are six types of these drugs:
- Inhaled corticosteroids are considered the most powerful long-term control therapy.
Examples are QVAR® (beclomethasone),
- Oral corticosteroids are usually prescribed for patients with severe persistent
asthma or who experience acute asthma attacks. Examples include prednisone and methylprednisone
- Mast cell stabilizers are used to prevent exercise-induced asthma. An example is Intal®
- Long-acting beta 2 agonists relax and open bronchial tubes. An example is Foradil®
(formoteral). A combination drug that both relaxes and opens airways, and reduces inflammation
is Advair® (salmeterol
relaxes airways and may prevent inflammation.
- Anti-leukotriene agents are a relatively new class of long-term control drugs. These
(zafirlukast) and Singulair®
Quick-relief medications are for use during an asthma attack. Unlike long-term control medications, they do not reduce inflammation. Instead, they relax and open airways to increase airflow.
- Short-acting beta agonists include inhaled drugs such as Proventil®
(ipratropium) often is prescribed for patients who cannot tolerate beta-agonist side
If you are being treated for asthma, be sure you understand when to use your medications. If
your current asthma treatment does not include a long-acting medication, discuss with your
physician if one is right for you.
Visit the Asthma Center to learn more about asthma management.
Get more information about your medication.
If you're looking for more specific answers to specific questions, ask a Walgreens pharmacist here.