Updated 16 January 2017

Terbutaline (inhaled)

Terbutaline is a bronchodilator. Bronchodilators are drugs that relax the muscles around the airways, helping the airways to open up, making it easier to breathe.


Terbutaline (inhaled) is the active ingredient of Bricanyl turbohaler (Nappi code: 791415-007).


General information

Terbutaline is a bronchodilator. Bronchodilators are drugs that relax the muscles around the airways, helping the airways to open up, making it easier to breathe.

In South Africa terbutaline (inhaled) is registered for the treatment of bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Rinse mouth with water after each inhalation dose to minimise dry mouth.

Do not exceed the recommended dose. If your usual dose does not provide relief or if relief does not last, medical advice should be sought.

How does terbutaline work?

Terbutaline relaxes bronchial smooth muscle by stimulating beta2 receptors. When terbutaline stimulates these receptors, it causes the muscles in the airways to relax, making breathing easier.


Fast facts

Drug schedule: schedule 2

Available as: terbutaline is available as a turbohaler.

What does it do? Terbutaline widens/opens the airways to make breathing easier.

Overdose risk: low

Dependence risk: low

Is terbutaline available as a generic? no

Is terbutaline available on prescription only? no and yes


User information

Onset of effect: within 5 -15 minutes

Duration of action: up to 8 hours

Stopping this medicine: do not stop treatment with this drug without consulting your doctor. The original symptoms may recur.


Special precautions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if:

   - you have a thyroid problem

   - you have diabetes

   - you have a heart disease

   - you have high blood pressure

   - you have glaucoma

Pregnancy: potentially safe - speak to doctor before use.

Breastfeeding: presumed safe - speak to doctor before use.

Porphyria: avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your condition. Consult your doctor before use.

Infants and children: this medication is not intended for use in children under the age of 2 years.

The elderly: caution is advised in the elderly as side effects are more likely to occur.

Driving and hazardous work: no special precautions need to be taken.

Alcohol: no special precautions need to be taken.


Possible side effects

   Side effect Frequency  Consult your doctor  
   CommonRare      Only if severe In all cases
muscle tremorx x 
restlessnessx x 
nervousnessx x 
headachex x 
breathing difficulties x x


Drug interactions


may reduce the effect of terbutaline and worsen broncho-constriction

monoamine-oxidase-inhibitor antidepressantsa dangerous rise in blood pressure may occur
theophyllineblood potassium levels may be lowered
corticosteroidsblood potassium levels may be lowered

Overdose action

A small overdose is no cause for concern. In case of intentional large overdose, seek emergency medical attention.


Recommended dosage

Adults: use every 4 - 6 hours as directed.

This material is not intended to substitute medical advice, but is for informational purposes only.

Please consult a physician for specific treatment and recommendations.


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Professor Keertan Dheda has received several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others. Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute.

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