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Drugs affecting the Respiratory System. By Linda Self. Respiratory System. Key Terms Ventilation Perfusion Diffusion Pulmonary Circulation Surfactant pneumocytes. Drugs for Asthma and Other Bronchoconstrictive Disorders. Asthma—inflammation, hyperreactivity, and bronchoconstriction

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respiratory system
Respiratory System
  • Key Terms
  • Ventilation
  • Perfusion
  • Diffusion
  • Pulmonary Circulation
  • Surfactant
  • pneumocytes
drugs for asthma and other bronchoconstrictive disorders
Drugs for Asthma and Other Bronchoconstrictive Disorders

Asthma—inflammation, hyperreactivity,

and bronchoconstriction

GERD may cause microaspiration/resultant nighttime cough

Antiasthma medications can also exacerbate GERD


May be triggered by viruses



Can develop at any age

Seen more often in children who are exposed to airway irritants during infancy




Mucosal edema

Excessive mucous

pathophysiology of asthma
Pathophysiology of Asthma

Mast cells

Chemical mediators such as histamine, prostaglandins, acetylcholine, cGMP, interleukins, leukotrienes are released when triggered. Mobilization of eosinophils. All cause movement of fluid and proteins into tissues.

Bronchoconstrictive substances antagonized by cAMP

chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Combination of chronic bronchitis and emphysema

Bronchoconstriction and inflammation are more constant, less reversibility

Anatomic and physiologic changes occur over years

Leads to increasing dyspnea and activity intolerance

drug therapy
Drug Therapy

Bronchodilators and anti-inflammatories

categories of asthma
Categories of Asthma
  • Step 1-Mild Intermittent—symptoms 2 days/week or less or 2 nights/month or less. No daily medication needed; treat with inhaled beta2 agonist
  • Step 2-Mild persistent—symptoms >2/week but <1x/day or >2 nights/month. In those >5 years old, use inhaled corticosteroid, leukotriene modifier, Intal (cromolyn), or sustained release theophylline
categories of asthma cont
Categories of Asthma cont.
  • Step 2—Mild persistent
  • Children 5 years and younger—inhaled corticosteroid by nebulizer of MDI with a holding chamber. Can also use leukotriene modifier or Intal by nebulizer
  • Step 3—Moderate persistent. Symptoms daily and > one night per week.
  • Older than 5yo—low to med. Dose corticosteroid and long acting beta 2 agonist. Alternatives p. 714
  • Step 3—
  • Children < 5 yo: low dose inhaled corticosteroid and a long acting beta 2 agonist or medium dose inhaled corticosteroid
  • Step 4—Severe persistent—symptoms continual during daytime and frequently at night.
  • >5yo—high dose inhaled corticosteroid, long acting beta 2 agonist; intermittent admin. of oral corticosteroids

Step 4—

Children less than 5 yo—same as for adults and older children


Adrenergics—stimulate beta 2 receptors in smooth muscle of bronchi and bronchioles

Receptors stimulate cAMP =bronchodilation

Cardiac stimulation is an adverse effect of these medications

bronchodilators adrenergics

Cautious use in hypertension and cardiac disease

Selective beta 2 agonists by inhalation are drugs of choice

Epinephrine sc in acute bronchoconstriction

short acting bronchodilators
Short acting bronchodilators

Proventil (albuterol)

Xopenex (levalbuterol)

short acting bronchodilators1
Short Acting Bronchodilators

Treatment of first choice to relieve acute asthma

Aerosol or nebulization

May be given by MDI

Overuse will diminish their bronchodilating effects>>>>tolerance

other bronchodilators
Other bronchodilators

Foradil (formoterol) and Serevent (salmeterol) are long acting beta 2 adrenergic agonists used only for prophylaxis. Black box warning on Serevent—use in deteriorating asthma can be life-threatening

Alupent (metaproterenol)—intermediate acting. Useful in exercise induced asthma, tx acute bronchospasm.

other bronchodilators1
Other bronchodilators

Brethine (terbutaline)—selective beta 2 adrenergic agonist that is a long-acting bronchodilator

When given subq, loses selectivity

Also used to decrease premature uterine contractions during pregnancy


Block the action of acetylcholine in bronchial smooth muscle when given by inhalation

Action reduces intracellular guanosine monophosphate (GMP) which is a bronchoconstrictive substance

Atrovent (ipratropium)—caution in BPH, narrow-angle glaucoma

Spiriva (tiotropium)



Mechanism of action unclear

Bronchodilate, inhibit pulmonary edema, increase action of cilia, strengthen diaphragmatic contractions, over-all anti-inflammatory action

Increases CO, causes peripheral vasodilation, mild diuresis, stimulates CNS


Contraindicated in acute gastritis and PUD

Second line

Narrow therapeutic window—therapeutic range is 5-15 mcg/mLh

Multiple drug interactions

anti inflammatory agents
Anti-Inflammatory Agents

Suppress inflammation by inhibiting movement of fluid and protein into tissues; migration and function of neutrophils and eosinophils, synthesis of histamine in mast cells, and production of proinflammatory substances

Benefits: decreased mucous secretion, decreased edema and reduced reactivity


Second action is to increase the number and sensitivity of beta 2 adrenergic receptors

Can be given PO or IV

Pulmonary function usually improves within 6-8 hours

Continue drugs for 7-10 days


Fewer long term side effects if inhaled

End-stage COPD may become steroid dependent

In asthma, systemic steroids generally are used only temporarily

Taper high dose oral steroids to avoid hypothalamic-pituitary axis suppression


For inhalation:






Most inhaled steroids are being reformulated with HFA


Systemic use: prednisone, methylprednisolone, and hydrocortisone

In acute, severe asthma—a systemic corticosteroid may be indicated when inhaled beta 2 agonists are ineffective

leukotriene modifiers
Leukotriene Modifiers

Leukotrienes are strong chemical mediators of bronchoconstriction and inflammation

Increase mucous secretion and mucosal edema

Formed by the lipoxygenase pathway of arachidonic acid metabolism in response to cellular injury

Are release more slowly than histamine

leukotriene modifier drugs
Leukotriene Modifier Drugs

Developed to counteract the effects of leukotrienes

Indicated for long term treatment of asthma in adults and children

Prevent attacks induced by some allergens, exercise, cold air, hyperventilation, irritants and ASA/NSAIDs

Not useful in acute attacks

leukotriene modifiers1
Leukotriene Modifiers
  • Injured cell
  • Arachidonic acid
  • XXXX
  • Lipooxygenase
  • Leukotrienes
  • XXXX
  • Bronchi, WBCs
  • Bronchoconstriction
leukotriene modifier drugs1
Leukotriene Modifier Drugs

Singulair (montelukast) and Accolate (zafirlukast) are leukotriene receptor antagonists

Can be used in combination with bronchodilators and corticosteroids

Less effective than low doses of inhaled steroids

Should not be used during lactation

Can cause HA, nausea, diarrhea, other

mast cell stabilizers
Mast Cell Stabilizers

Intal (cromolyn)

Tilade (nedocromil)

Prevent release of bronchoconstrictive and inflammatory substances when mast cells are confronted with allergens and other stimuli

Prophylaxis only

Inhalation, nebulizer or MDI, nasal spray as well

immunosuppressant monoclonal antibody
Immunosuppressant Monoclonal Antibody

Xolair (omalizumab) works by binding to IgE, blocking receptors on surfaces of mast cells and basophils

Prevents release of chemical mediators of allergic reactions

Adjunctive therapy

Can cause life-threatening anaphylaxis

antihistamines and allergic disorders
Antihistamines and Allergic Disorders

Histamine is the first chemical mediator released in immune and inflammatory responses

Concentrated in skin, mucosal surfaces of eyes, nose, lungs, CNS and GI tract

Located in mast cells and basophils

Interacts with histamine receptors on target organs called H1 and H2


H1 receptors are located mainly on smooth muscle cells in blood vessels and the respiratory and GI tracts

H1 binding causes: pruritus, flushing, increased mucous production, increased permeability of veins—edema, contraction of smooth muscle in bronchi>>bronchoconstriction and cough


With H2 receptor stimulation, main effects are increased secretion of gastric acid and pepsin, decreased immunologic and proinflammatory reactions, increased rate and force of myocardial contraction

allergic reactions
Allergic Reactions

Are exaggerated responses by the immune sysem that produce tissue injury and possible serious disease

Allergic reactions may result from specific antibodies, sensitized T lymphocytes, or both, formed durng exposure to an antigen.

types of responses to cell mediated invasion
Types of Responses to Cell-Mediated Invasion
  • Type I—immediate hypersensitivity, IgE induced response triggered by the interaction of antigen with antigen-specific IgE bound on mast cells
  • Anaphylaxis is an example
  • Does not occur on first exposure to an antigen
  • Can develop profound vasodilation resulting in hypotension, laryngeal edema, bronchoconstriction
allergic reactions1
Allergic Reactions

Type II—IgG or IgM mediated which generate direct damage to cell surfaces. Examples include: blood transfusion reactions, hemolytic disease of newborns, hypersensitivity reactions to drugs such as heparin or penicillin

allergic reactions2
Allergic Reactions

Type III is an IgG or IgM mediated reaction characterized by formation of antigen-antibody complexes that induce inflammatory reaction in tissues. Prototype is Serum Sickness.

Immune response can occur following antitoxin administration, pcn or sulfa drugs

type iv hypersensitivity
Type IV Hypersensitivity

Delayed hypersensitivity

Cell mediated response where sensitized T lymphocytes react with an antigen to cause inflammation, release of lymphokines , direct cytotoxicity or both

Classic examples are tuberculin test, contact dermatitis and some graft rejections

allergic rhinitis
Allergic Rhinitis
  • IgE mediated
  • Inflammation of nasal mucosa caused by a hypersensitivity reaction to inhaled allergens
  • Presents with itching of throat, eyes and ears
  • Seasonal and perennial
  • Can lead to chronic fatigue, difficulty sleeping, sinus infections, postnasal drip, cough and headache
intranasal drugs for allergic rhinitis
Intranasal Drugs for Allergic Rhinitis

Atrovent nasal spray

Beconase (beclomethasone)

Rhinocort (budesonide)

Flonase (fluticasone)

Nasonex (mometasone)

Nasalcrom (a mast cell stabilizer)

allergic contact dermatitis
Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Type IV hypersensitivity reaction

Poison ivy an example

Usually occurs >24h after re-exposure

other reactions
Other reactions
  • Allergic food reactions—result from ingestion of a protein
  • Most common food allergy is shellfish, others include milk, eggs, peanuts
  • Allergic drug reactions—unpredictable, may occur 7-10 days after initial exposure
  • Pseudoallergic drug reactions—resemble immune responses but do not produce antibodies, i.e. anaphylactoid

Inhibit smooth muscle constriction in blood vessels and the respiratory and GI tracts

Decrease capillary permeability

Decrease salivation and tear formation

Act by binding with the histamine receptor

indications for use
Indications for Use

Allergic rhinitis


Allergic conjunctivitis

Drug allergies

Transfusions of blood products

Dermatologic conditions

Nonallergic such as motion sickness, nausea and vomiting, sleep


Caution in pregnancy


Bladder neck obstruction

Narrow angle glaucoma

first generation h1 receptor antagonists
First Generation H1 Receptor Antagonists

Bind to central and peripheral receptors

Can cause CNS depression or stimulation

Have substantial anticholinergic effects


Chlor-Trimeton (chlorpheniramine)

Benadryl (diphenhydramine)

Vistaril (hydroxyzine)

Phenergan (promethazine)

second generation h1 receptor antagonists
Second Generation H1 Receptor Antagonists

Selective or nonsedating

Do not cross blood brain barrier


Astelin (azelastine)

Allegra (fexofenadine)

Claritin (loratadine)

Clarinex (desloratadine)



nasal decongestants
Nasal Decongestants

Relieve nasal obstruction and discharge


Rebound nasal swelling called “rhinitis medicamentosa”


Sudafed (pseudoephedrine)

Contraindicated in severe hypertension, CAD, narrow angle glaucoma, TCAs or MAOIs


Suppress cough by depressing cough center in medulla or by increasing flow of saliva

For dry, hacking, non-productive cough

Not recommended in children and adolescents

Codeine, hydrocodone



Liquefy respiratory secretions



By inhalation to liquefy mucous

Mucomyst (acetylcysteine)

May be used in treating acetaminophen overdose

cold remedies
Cold Remedies
  • Contain antihistamine, decongestant and an analgesic
  • Chlorpheniramine, pseudoephedrine, acetaminophen, dextromethorphan and guiafenesin
  • Decongestants can cause stasis of secretions
  • PM contains antihistamine
  • Tamiflu can be used to limit spread of virus in respiratory tract

Name two beta adrenergic bronchodilators

Name an inhaled steroid

Give an example of a leukotriene modifier

Name a mast cell stabilizer

Name a common infection after frequent use of an inhaled steroid

Name a first generation H1 receptor antagonist

Name a second generation H1 receptor antagonist.

Name an H2 receptor antagonist.