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Drugs used in asthma

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

Authoring team

The drugs used in the management of asthma fall into two broad categories:

  • controllers
  • aim is to control clinical symptoms, and reduce future risks such as exacerbations and decline in lung function
  • taken daily on long term basis
  • agents include:
    • inhaled and systemic corticosteroids
    • cromones
    • leukotriene antagonists
    • methotrexate
    • long acting inhaled beta-adrenergic agonists in combination with inhaled corticosteroids
  • relievers:
    • aim is to reverse bronchoconstriction and relieve the symptoms quickly
    • used on as needed basis
    • agents include:
      • rapid acting inhaled beta-adrenergic agonists
      • short acting theophylline
      • inhaled anticholinergics
      • short acting oral beta-adrenergic agonists


  • before initiating a new drug therapy, practitioners should check adherence with existing therapies, inhaler technique and eliminate trigger factors
  • β-blockers, including eye drops, are contraindicated in patients with asthma (2)


  1. Global Initiative For Asthma (GINA) 2023. Global strategy for asthma management and prevention
  2. British Thoracic Society (BTS)/Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) 2019. British Guideline on the Management of Asthma. A national clinical guideline.

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