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Drugs Used in Nebulizers

By Valerie Liles ; Updated August 14, 2017

Prescribed nebulizer medications come in unit dose vials and multidose bottles. Unit dose vials come in sealed foil pouches and are easy to use; simply break off the top of the plastic vial and pour the premeasured and mixed medication into the nebulizer reservoir cup.

Nebulizers are small handheld devices that use compressed air or oxygen, or an air compressor to produce an aerosol from the liquid medication in the nebulizer reservoir cup. Nebulizer medication can relieve bronchospasms, wheezing, and coughing and reduce inflammation of the airway. Drugs used in nebulizers include short-acting beta-2 agonists, long-acting beta-2 agonists, combination drugs and corticosteroids.

Short-Acting Beta-2 Agonists

The two short-acting beta-2 agonist nebulizer medications on the market include albuterol sulfate and levalbuterol hydrochloride. Albuterol sulfate, packaged under the brand name of AccuNeb, comes in a 0.63 mg and a 1.25 mg dose vial. This medication is manufactured by Dey, L.P. Levalbuterol hydrochloride, sold under the brand name Xopenex, is available in 0.31 mg, 0.63 mg, and 1.25 mg vials. Levalbuterol is manufactured by Sepracore, Inc. and should not be mixed with other nebulized medications.

Short-acting beta-2 agonists are a class of quick relief drugs used to treat asthma and other pulmonary diseases by relaxing the smooth muscles in the airway within a relatively short period of time. Albuterol sulfate and levalbuterol hydrochloride are U. S. Federal Drug Administration-approved generic medications.

Long-Acting Beta-2 Agonists

The two long-acting beta-2 agonist drugs on the market include arformoterol tartrate and formoterol fumarate. Arformoterol tartrate, packaged under the brand name of Brovana, is sold in a 15 mcg dose vial and manufactured by Sepracor Inc. Formoterol fumarate is packaged under the brand name of Perforomist and comes in a 20 mcg vial. Arformoterol tartrate and formoterol fumarate do not have U.S. Federal Drug Administration-approved generic medications.

Combination Nebulizer Drugs

Ipratropium bromide and albuterol sulfate are bronchodilators used to prevent and treat bronchospasms. These drugs are combined and packaged under the brand name of DuoNeb. A DuoNeb contains 0.5 mg of ipratropium bromide and 3.0 mg of albuterol sulfate premeasured and premixed in a single vial.

Corticosteroid

Budesonide, a corticosteroid, prevents wheezing and shortness of breath. Budesonide should not be mixed with other nebulized medications. Budesonide, packaged under the brand name of Pulmicort Respules, is sold in 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg and 1 mg dose vials and is manufactured by AstraZeneca.

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