Meds and you

30 September 2013


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


Salmeterol is the active ingredient of Serevent Accuhaler (Nappi code: 818496-002) and Serevent CFC inhaler (Nappi code: 787302-007).

General information

Salmeterol 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 salmeterol is registered for the treatment of long-term reversible airway obstruction in asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. In children it is also used to prevent exercise-induced asthma.

Salmeterol should not be confused with salbutamol. Its advantage over salbutamol is that it is longer-acting.

Salmeterol takes longer to start working compared to some other bronchodilators (its effects last longer than that of most of the others, though). Because of this, salmeterol is not intended for treating acute asthma attacks - instead, it should be used regularly each day to keep the airways open and help prevent breathing difficulties.

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 salmeterol work?

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

Fast facts

Drug schedule: schedule 2

Available as: salmeterol is available as accuhaler and inhaler.

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

Overdose risk: low

Dependence risk: low

Is salmeterol available as a generic? no

Is salmeterol available on prescription only? no

User information

Onset of effect: within 20 minutes

Duration of action: up to 12 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 epilepsy

- you have glaucoma

Pregnancy: avoid. Potential risk to the foetus has been reported. Consult your doctor before use, or if you are planning to fall pregnant.

Breastfeeding: presumed safe - speak to doctor before use.

Porphyria: this medication is safe for use.

Infants and children: this medication is not intended for use in children under the age of 4 years.

The elderly: no special precautions need to be taken.

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

Common Rare Only if severe In all cases
muscle tremor x
anxiety x
restlessness x
x x
breathing difficulties


Drug interactions

beta-blockers may reduce the effect of salmeterol and worsen bronchoconstriction
theophylline blood potassium levels may be lowered

blood potassium levels may be lowered

monoamine-oxidase-inhibitor antidepressants a dangerous rise in blood pressure may occur
tricyclic antidepressants increased risk of cardiac-related side effects

Overdose action

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

Recommended dosage

Adults: use twice daily 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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