theophylline, Elixophyllin, Theo-24, (Theolair, Uniphyl Theo-Dur, and Slo-Phyllin-discontinued)

  • Pharmacy Author:
    Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD

    Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.

  • Medical and Pharmacy Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

What is theophylline, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?

Theophylline belongs to a class of medications called bronchodilators, used in treating asthma and other airway diseases. Asthma is a breathing problem caused by narrowing of the airways, the breathing passages that allow air to move in and out of the lungs. Airways can be narrowed due to accumulation of mucus, spasm of the muscles that surround these airways, or swelling of the lining of the airways. Airway narrowing leads to symptoms of shortness of breath, wheezing, cough, and congestion. The narrowed airways can open either spontaneously or with medications. Medications that open airways are called bronchodilators. Theophylline opens airways by relaxing the smooth muscles in the walls of the airways. Theophylline  also can be helpful in patients with emphysema and chronic bronchitis when their symptoms are partially related to reversible airway narrowing. Theophylline also strengthens right heart function and diaphragm movement. Theophylline was approved by the FDA in April 1979.

What brand names are available for theophylline?

Elixophyllin, Theo-24

Is theophylline available as a generic drug?

GENERIC AVAILABLE: Yes

Do I need a prescription for theophylline?

Yes

What are the uses for theophylline?

Theophylline is used for the relief and prevention of airway narrowing (bronchospasm) in patients with asthma. Theophylline also can be used in treating patients with emphysema and chronic bronchitis when their symptoms are related to reversible airway narrowing. Theophylline can be administered together with other bronchodilators, such as albuterol (Ventolin, Proventil) for added bronchodilator effect.

What are the side effects of theophylline?

Common side effects are:

Other important and more serious side effects include seizures and heart arrhythmias. Theophylline should be used cautiously in patients with high blood pressure, peptic ulcer disease, seizure disorders, and serious heart disease, especially heart rhythm problems.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/5/2016

Quick GuideAsthma Symptoms, Causes, and Medications

Asthma Symptoms, Causes, and Medications
FDA Logo

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.

See more info: theophylline on RxList
RxList Logo

Need help identifying pills and medications?

Use the pill identifier tool on RxList.

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Allergy and Asthma Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors