Albuterol: Drug Interactions

Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.

This lesson is going to give more information on albuterol, a commonly prescribed asthma medication. We will learn about the most common drug interactions and what happens when they interact.


Erica is relieved to finally have a diagnosis for her daughter's condition. Her daughter, Ariel, has just been diagnosed with asthma, a respiratory condition that makes breathing difficult due to inflamed airways and mucus build-up. Ariel has had a difficult time with breathing, especially when it gets cold outside. Dr. Jaycox is prescribing albuterol for Ariel to use whenever she has problems breathing. Albuterol is a medication that opens the airways by relaxing the muscles in the walls of the airways.

Albuterol inhalers are used for asthma symptoms
Picture of albuterol inhaler

Before Erica and Ariel leave Dr. Jaycox's office, they have to learn everything they can about the medication that Ariel will be taking. Dr. Jaycox has already told them how Ariel will take the medicine, side effects, and things to look out for. Now it is time for Dr. Jaycox to explain the other drugs that may interact with albuterol to Erica and Ariel. It is important that they know this information because one of Ariel's other doctors may prescribe one of the drugs that interacts, which could cause some serious problems.

Drug Interactions

Dr. Jaycox doesn't expect Ariel to need to take any beta-blockers, which are medications that block adrenaline from being able to have an effect on the body. Beta blockers are usually prescribed for people that have heart problems. Albuterol is a beta-agonist so taking a medication that is a beta-blocker would block the effect of albuterol. In some cases, taking a beta blocker and albuterol can cause spasms to occur in the airways which would make asthma worse.

Another drug that Dr. Jaycox mentions is also used for heart problems and Ariel wouldn't likely need it, but you never know about the future. Digoxin is an antiarrhythmic drug that is used to correct heart arrhythmias.

Digoxin decreases albuterol amounts
Picture of digoxin bottle

The presence of both digoxin and albuterol in the body makes the amount of both less in the body than what it would be in the absence of the other drug. This would also likely decrease the effectiveness of albuterol since less will be present in the body.

Dr. Jaycox brings up diuretics as the next drug that interacts with albuterol. Diuretics are commonly referred to as water pills because they decrease water retention by increasing urine output. This is usually given to people to help with high blood pressure. The problem here isn't so much for albuterol, but more so for diuretics. The diuretics may cause a drastic decrease in blood potassium levels when a person is taking both medicines. This could cause problems with the heart and other muscle contractions.

MAOIs and certain other antidepressants used to treat depression are known to interact with albuterol. Dr. Jaycox lets Ariel and her mom know that albuterol may intensify the side effects that these drugs have on the heart and blood vessels. This can cause some potentially dangerous heart problems. The potential for this interaction exists for up to 2 weeks after taking the antidepressants.

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