What is terbutaline, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?
Terbutaline is a member of a class of drugs
called beta adrenergic receptor agonists (stimulators) that is used for treating
asthma and other diseases of the airways. Other drugs in the same class of drugs
include albuterol (Proventil), metaproterenol (Alupent), pirbuterol (Maxair),
and salmeterol (Serevent). Asthma is a breathing problem caused by narrowing of
air passages (bronchial tubes) through which air moves in and out of the lungs.
These airways can be narrowed due to the accumulation of mucus, spasm of the
muscles that surround them (bronchospasm), or swelling of their linings due to
the accumulation of fluid. Airway narrowing leads to shortness of breath,
cough. Terbutaline is a bronchodilator, a medication that dilates
(expands) air passages in the lungs. It attaches to beta adrenergic receptors on
muscles surrounding the air passages, causing the muscles to relax and dilate
the air passages. Wider air passages allow more air to flow in and out of the
lungs. Increased airflow reduces shortness of breath, wheezing, and cough.
Terbutaline also is used for delaying premature labor by relaxing the muscles of
the uterus that are responsible for expelling the fetus at the time of delivery.
The FDA approved terbutaline in 1974.
What brand names are available for terbutaline?
Brethine, Bricanyl, Brethaire are no longer available in the U.S.
Is terbutaline available as a generic drug?
What is the dosage for terbutaline?
The recommended adult oral dose for treating bronchospasm due
to asthma, emphysema, or bronchitis is 2.5-5 mg 3 to 4 times daily approximately
6 hours apart while awake. The maximum dosage is 15 mg/day.
subcutaneous (under skin) dose is 0.25 mg every 15-30 minutes for two doses. The
maximum dose is 0.5 mg within 4 hours.
The recommended dose for the inhaler is 2
puffs every 4 to 6 hours.
The dose for preterm labor is 2.5 to 10 mcg/min by
intravenous infusion initially, then increase amounts every 10 to 20 minutes.
The typical effective dose is 17.5 to 30 mcg/min. Treatment should not exceed 72
Which drugs or supplements interact with terbutaline?
Combining terbutaline with thioridazine (Mellaril)
may increase the occurrence of abnormal heart rhythms because both drugs can
cause abnormal heart rhythms. The effects of terbutaline (a beta stimulant) are
reversed by beta-blockers, for example, atenolol (Tenormin), nadolol (Corgard),
propranolol (Inderal), and metoprolol (Lopressor). Conversely, terbutaline may
reduce the effect of beta-blockers. Therefore, terbutaline and beta-blockers
should not be used together.
Is terbutaline safe to take if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?
Terbutaline reduces uterine contractions and may inhibit
labor. There are no adequate studies of terbutaline in
What else should I know about terbutaline?
What preparations of terbutaline are available?
Tablets: 2.5 and 5 mg. Injection: 1 mg/ml. Inhaler: 0.2
mg/puff. Nubulizer: 1 mg/ml.
How should I keep terbutaline stored?
Tablets and injection should be stored at room temperature,
15 C – 30 C (59 F – 86 F).
Medically Reviewed on 8/1/2019
FDA Prescribing Information