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Terbutaline is a prescription drug that is licensed for the treatment of emphysema and asthma. By causing muscles around the airways to relax, the medication can open up the airways and help improve breathing. Terbutaline, which is available only in generic form, comes as an oral tablet that is generally taken three times a day. Side effects of the medication can include drowsiness, nervousness, and headaches.

What Is Terbutaline?

Terbutaline sulfate (Brethine®) is a prescription medication used to treat asthma and emphysema in adults and children ages 12 and older.
(Click What Is Terbutaline Used For? for more information on the drug's uses, including possible off-label uses.)

Who Makes Terbutaline?

While brand-name terbutaline is no longer available, generic terbutaline is available and is made by a few different manufacturers.

How Does It Work?

Normally, air moves easily into and out of the lungs through a network of airways. During an asthma attack, however, the muscles around these airways tighten. This narrows the airways and makes it harder to breathe. This is called bronchospasm.
Terbutaline is part of a class of drugs called beta-adrenergic receptor agonists, or beta agonists for short. Beta agonists stimulate beta receptors in the body, including those on the muscles around airways. This stimulation causes the muscles to relax, which opens up the airways and allows more air to get into and through the lungs.
Terbutaline also has some effects on decreasing the activity of mast cells in the lungs, which play an important role in inflammation and allergic reactions.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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