How Do Xanthine Derivatives Work?

Reviewed on 10/22/2021

How do xanthine derivatives work?

Xanthine derivatives are medications used to treat bronchospasm caused by lung conditions such as asthma. Xanthine is a naturally occurring compound in the human body and is also found in plant products such as tea, coffee, and cocoa beans.

Xanthine derivatives are a group of alkaloids that work as mild stimulants and bronchodilators. Xanthine derivatives ease symptoms of bronchospasm and make breathing easier by relaxing the smooth muscles of the respiratory tract and reducing the airway's hypersensitive response to stimuli.

Xanthine derivatives increase the cellular levels of signaling molecules known as cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) by inhibiting the activity of phosphodiesterase, an enzyme that regulates cAMP levels. An increase in tissue concentration of cAMP results in bronchial smooth muscle relaxation and bronchodilation.

How are xanthine derivatives used?

Xanthine derivatives may be administered as:

  • Oral tablets, capsules, lozenges, solutions, or elixir 
  • Intravenous (IV) infusions

Xanthine derivatives are used to prevent and treat symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness caused by acute bronchospasm associated with lung conditions such as:

Xanthine derivatives are also used to treat neonatal apnea (brief episodes of breathing cessation in newborns).

What are side effects of xanthine derivatives?

Side effects of xanthine derivatives may include the following:

Information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible side effects, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure these drugs do not cause any harm when you take them along with other medicines. Never stop taking your medication and never change your dose or frequency without consulting your doctor.

What are names of xanthine derivative drugs?

Generic and brand names of xanthine derivative drugs include:


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