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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, data indicate that there is a population of beta2-receptors in the human heart existing in a concentration between 10% and 50%. The precise function of these receptors has not been established (see WARNINGS).
The pharmacologic effects of beta-adrenergic agonist drugs, including albuterol, are at least in part attributable to stimulation through beta-adrenergic receptors of intracellular adenyl cyclase, the enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to cyclic-3',5'-adenosine monophosphate (cyclic AMP). Increased cyclic AMP levels are associated with relaxation of bronchial smooth muscle and inhibition of release of mediators of immediate hypersensitivity from cells, especially from mast cells.
Albuterol has been shown in most controlled clinical trials to have more effect on the respiratory tract, in the form of bronchial smooth muscle relaxation, than isoproterenol at comparable doses while producing fewer cardiovascular effects.
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 the urine within 24 hours after drug administration. Following a 3-mg dose of nebulized albuterol in adults, the maximum albuterol plasma levels at 0.5 hours were 2.1 ng/mL (range, 1.4 to 3.2 ng/mL). There was a significant dose-related response in FEV1 (forced expiratory volume in 1 second) and peak flow rate. It has been demonstrated that following oral administration of 4 mg of albuterol, the elimination half-life was 5 to 6 hours.
Intravenous studies in rats with albuterol sulfate have demonstrated that albuterol crosses the blood-brain barrier and reaches brain concentrations amounting to approximately 5.0% of the plasma concentrations. In structures outside the brain barrier (pineal and pituitary glands), albuterol concentrations were found to be 100 times those in the 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.
In controlled clinical trials in adults, most patients exhibited an onset of improvement in pulmonary function within 5 minutes as determined by FEV1. FEV1 measurements also showed that the maximum average improvement in pulmonary function usually occurred at approximately 1 hour following inhalation of 2.5 mg of albuterol by compressor-nebulizer and remained close to peak for 2 hours. Clinically significant improvement in pulmonary function (defined as maintenance of a 15% or more increase in FEV1 over baseline values) continued for 3 to 4 hours in most patients, with some patients continuing up to 6 hours.
Published reports of trials in asthmatic children aged 3 years or older have demonstrated significant improvement in either FEV1 or PEFR within 2 to 20 minutes following single doses of albuterol inhalation solution. An increase of 15% or more in baseline FEV1 has been observed in children aged 5 to 11 years up to 6 hours after treatment with doses of 0.10 mg/kg or higher of albuterol inhalation solution. Single doses of 3, 4, or 10 mg resulted in improvement in baseline PEFR that was comparable in extent and duration to a 2-mg dose, but doses above 3 mg were associated with heart rate increases of more than 10%.
Last reviewed on RxList: 12/17/2004
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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