Albuterol: Pharmacology, Classification & Structure

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Do you have asthma or do you know someone that does? Perhaps they use a medication called albuterol. Find out how this drug is classified and how it works!

Airways & Breathing

When you inhale, what happens to your chest? It expands. What you don't see inside the chest is that the lungs expand in size as well. Inside those lungs, airways called bronchi dilate (expand) too. Now imagine that these airways underwent a spasm and thus narrowed. You'd have a tough time breathing in those cases. Well, there are thankfully many different medications that can prevent and treat such a worrying scenario. One of these medications is called albuterol. Let's learn about its pharmacology, classification, and structure.

Classification & Structure

Albuterol, also called albuterol sulfate or salbutamol sulfate, is chemically classified as a beta-2 adrenergic agonist. We'll get to why that's important in the next section. Albuterol's therapeutic class is that of a bronchodilator. In other words, it's a drug that expands the airways. Its therapeutic use is thus important in conditions such as:

  • Asthma
  • Emphysema
  • Bronchitis

As well as what's known as exercise-induced bronchospasm, or constriction of the airways as a result of exercise.

Albuterols chemical structure.


The way that albuterol works is simple to understand at its core. Imagine that albuterol is a key and the receptor it fits into is a lock. Now, you know that some keys can fit into a lock but not turn to open the lock while other keys can fit into a lock and turn it to open it. Well, the latter types of keys are called agonists in biology. In other words, once they fit into the lock, they are able to produce an outcome.

Albuterol, as you learned before, is a beta-2 adrenergic agonist. That is to say, it stimulates the beta-2 adrenergic receptors. It fits the beta-2 lock and turns it to produce an effect. The beta-2 receptors are part of the adrenergic system. This is the system that is influenced by epinephrine and norepinephrine.

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