Asthma Drugs

Profiles of Common Asthma Drugs

Asthma drugs vary by a number of factors such as:

  • Controller versus quick relief
  • Mode of delivery
  • Combination of more than one medication
  • Mechanism of action or how they work

Learn more about your asthma drugs and other asthma drugs that are available. If you do not see your asthma drugs here or want to learn more, you can check out Drugs A to Z.

Inhaled Steroid

Flovent-Diskus. Photo: © GlaxoSmithKline

Inhaled steroids are the most potent and effective asthma medication available for the long term control of your asthma. The anti-inflammatory properties of inhaled steroids are responsible for for the significant improvement that is often seen with the use of this asthma medication.

They are the first drug indicated after intermittent therapy is no longer effective and you need more than a rescue inhaler for your asthma. Because of the treatment responses seen  improving asthma control more effectively than any other agent used as a single treatment, they are considered first line treatment.

Inhaled steroids prescribe to you may include:

Inhaled steroids are not absorbed into the body like oral steroids so are less likely to cause the side effects that you are more common with oral steroids. Overall, the risk of side effects is very low, but there are ​several things you can do to decrease your risk of side effects.



Asthma Drug- Advair

Advair is a controller medication combining two drugs into one inhaler (an inhaled steroid with a long acting beta agonist). Studies suggest possible benefits of these combination medications compared to prescribing them separately. Additionally, several studies suggest using a combination inhaler product as your only inhaler for both control and acute symptoms. However, you should discuss this treatment with your asthma doctor before attempting on your own.

Patients find this type of asthma medication more convenient and often feel like they have better control of their asthma.


Long Acting Beta Agonists (LABA)

Female Using Asthma Inhaler. Photo © Getty Images- Stockbyte

LABAs are not used as a monotherapy for the treatment and prevention of asthma symptoms and are not used to treat acute asthma symptoms or asthma exacerbations. They are considered an adjunctive therapy.

LABAs include:

  • Brovana
  • Foradil
  • Perforomist
  • Serevent



Albuterol Inhaler. Photo: © ADAM

Albuterol is a SABA or short acting bronchodilator. It is referred to as a rescue inhaler because it is a type of bronchodilator used for the acute relief of asthma symptoms. The most common SABA is albuterol (a list of other SABAs is included below). They help with symptoms such as:

Taken 30 minutes before the onset of exercise, albuterol and other SABAs can prevent symptoms of exercise-induced asthma.

Using your albuterol or SABA more than twice per week indicates your asthma is under poor control and that you may need to increase other controller medications

Leukotriene Modifiers

Leukotrienes are released from mast cells, eosinophils, and basophils and lead to increased inflammation, secretions and airway narrowing that cause asthma symptoms. Leukotriene modifiers block this process.

This class of asthma medications is considered an alternative treatment for patients with asthma. Singulair (montelukast) and other leukotriene modifiers can be used as an alternative therapy for the treatment of mild persistent asthma and adjunctive therapy in combination with inhaled steroids.

Exercise-induced asthma can also be controlled with this asthma medication.

Three leukotriene modifiers are currently available:


Oral Steroids

Pills. Photo © Photographer's Choice

Oral steroids are used for the treatment of moderate and severe asthma exacerbations to help improve symptoms and prevent the late phase response of the allergic cascade. Oral steroids are only used as a controller medication after failing multiple other medications.

Oral steroid use is one indication that you may need to see a pulmonary specialist.


Final Thoughts

There are many different medications used in the treatment of asthma and it is important to be mindful of each.

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