budesonide/formoterol hfa inhaler (Symbicort)

Pharmacy Author:
Medical and Pharmacy Editor:

GENERIC NAME: budesonide and formoterol fumarate inhaler aerosol

BRAND NAME: Symbicort

DRUG CLASS AND MECHANISM: Symbicort is a combination of inhaled drugs that is used to treat asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In patients with asthma or COPD the smaller airways (bronchioles) through which air moves in and out of thelungs can be narrowed by accumulation of mucus, spasm of the muscles that surround these airways, or swelling of the lining of the airways due to inflammation. Airway narrowing leads to symptoms of shortness of breath, wheezing, cough, and congestion. Medications used in treating asthma or COPD include those that open airways, called bronchodilators, and those that reduce inflammation.

Symbicort contains a combination of formoterol, a long acting beta-2 adrenergic agonist (LABA) bronchodilator, and budesonide, an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid. Beta-2 agonists are medications that attach to beta-2 receptors on the smooth muscle cells that surround the airways, causing the muscle cells to relax and open the airways. Budesonide is a synthetic (man-made) corticosteroid of the glucocorticoid family which is related to the natural hormone, cortisol or hydrocortisone, produced by the adrenal glands. Glucocorticoid steroids have potent anti-inflammatory actions. In asthmatic patients and people with COPD, the suppression of inflammation within the airways reduces the swelling caused by inflammation that narrows the airways. At the same time, production of mucus is reduced.

When used in lower doses, very little inhaled budesonide is absorbed into the body and side effects are infrequent. When higher doses are used, budesonide is absorbed and may cause side effects elsewhere in the body. The FDA approved Symbicort in July 2006.

PRESCRIBED FOR: Symbicort is used for treating asthma in patients 12 years of age and older and for treating COPD, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It should not be used for treating acute bronchospasm.


  • Symbicort should not be used for treatment of acute asthma or COPD attacks.
  • Use of long acting agents like formoterol, an active ingredient in Symbicort, may increase the risk of asthma-related death. Therefore, Symbicort should only be used in patients whose asthma is uncontrolled by other agents, including long-term asthma-controlling medications such as an inhaled corticosteroid.
  • Symbicort may cause bronchospasm. If bronchospasm occurs discontinue Symbicort should be discontinued with appropriate treatment of the bronchospasm.
  • Symbicort should not be combined with other LABA bronchodilator because such combinations may result in overdose.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/20/2015

Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Pill Finder Tool

Need help identifying pills and medications?
Use the pill identifier tool on RxList.

Back to Medications Index

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors