March 24, 2017
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The prime action of beta-adrenergic drugs is to stimulate adenyl cyclase, the enzyme which catalyzes the formation of cyclic-3',5'-adenosine monophosphate (cyclic AMP) from adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The cyclic AMP thus formed mediates the cellular responses. In vitro studies and in vivo pharmacologic studies have demonstrated that albuterol has a preferential effect on beta2-adrenergic receptors compared with isoproterenol. While it is recognized that beta2-adrenergic receptors are the predominant receptors in bronchial smooth muscle, recent data indicate that 10% to 50% of the beta-receptors in the human heart may be beta2-receptors. The precise function of these receptors, however, is not yet established. Controlled clinical studies and other clinical experience have shown that inhaled albuterol, like other beta-adrenergic agonist drugs, can produce a significant cardiovascular effect in some patients, as measured by pulse rate, blood pressure, symptoms, and/or electrocardiographic changes. Albuterol is longer acting than isoproterenol in most patients by any route of administration because it is not a substrate for the cellular uptake processes for catecholamines nor for catechol-O-methyl transferase.


Studies in asthmatic patients have shown that less than 20% of a single albuterol dose was absorbed following either intermittent positive-pressure breathing (IPPB) or nebulizer administration; the remaining amount was recovered from the nebulizer and apparatus, and expired air. Most of the absorbed dose was recovered in urine collected during the 24 hours after drug administration. Following oral administration of 4 mg albuterol, the elimination half-life was five to six hours. Following a 3 mg dose of nebulized albuterol in adults, the mean maximum albuterol plasma level at 0.5 hours was 2.1 ng/mL (range, 1.4 to 3.2 ng/mL). The pharmacokinetics of albuterol following administration of 0.63 mg or 1.25 mg albuterol sulfate inhalation solution by nebulization have not been determined in children 2 to 12 years old.

Animal Pharmacology/Toxicology

Intravenous studies in rats with albuterol sulfate have demonstrated that albuterol crosses the blood-brain barrier and reaches brain concentrations amounting to approximately 5% of plasma concentrations. In structures outside the blood-brain barrier (pineal and pituitary glands), albuterol concentrations were found to be 100 times those found in whole brain.

Studies in laboratory animals (minipigs, rodents, and dogs) have demonstrated the occurrence of cardiac arrhythmias and sudden death (with histologic evidence of myocardial necrosis) when beta-agonists and methylxanthines are administered concurrently. The clinical significance of these findings is unknown.

Clinical Trials

The safety and efficacy of AccuNeb (albuterol sulfate inhalation solution) was evaluated in a 4-week, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group study in 349 children 6 to 12 years of age with mild-to-moderate asthma (mean baseline FEV1 60% to 70% of predicted). Approximately half of the patients were also receiving inhaled corticosteroids. Patients were randomized to receive AccuNeb (albuterol sulfate inhalation solution) 0.63 mg, AccuNeb (albuterol sulfate inhalation solution) 1.25 mg, or placebo three times a day administered via a Pari LC Plus™ nebulizer and a Pari PRONEB™ compressor. Racemic albuterol, delivered by a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) metered dose inhaler (MDI) or nebulized, was used on an as-needed basis as the rescue medication.

Efficacy, as measured by the mean percent change from baseline in the area under the 6hour curve for FEV1, was demonstrated for both active treatment regimens (n=112 [1.25 mg group] and n=110 [0.63 mg group]) compared with placebo (n=110) on day 1 and day 28. Figures 1 and 2 illustrate the mean percentage change from pre-dose FEV1 on day 1 and day 28, respectively. The mean baseline FEV1 for all patients was 1.49 L.

Figure 1 : % Change from Pre-Dose FEV1 Intent-to-Treat Population
Day 1

% Change from Pre-Dose FEV1 Intent-to-Treat Population Day 1 - Illustration

Figure 2 : % Change from Pre-Dose FEV1 Intent-to-Treat Population
Day 28

% Change from Pre-Dose FEV1 Intent-to-Treat Population Day 28 - Illustration

The onset of a 15% increase in FEV1 over baseline for both doses of AccuNeb (albuterol sulfate inhalation solution) was seen at 30 minutes (the first post-dose assessment). The mean time to peak effect was approximately 30 to 60 minutes for both doses on day 1 and after 4 weeks of treatment. The mean duration of effect, as measured by a > 15% increase from baseline in FEV1, was approximately 2.5 hours for both doses on day 1 and approximately 2 hours for both doses after 4 weeks of treatment. In some patients, the duration of effect was as long as 6 hours.

Last reviewed on RxList: 11/22/2016
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

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