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Difference Between Albuterol and Atrovent

Albuterol vs Atrovent

Albuterol and Atrovent are two of the three types of bronchodilators. They are, in their own way, effective in preventing or controlling asthma. Although they are often used for the same purposes, the two are pretty different because they have different drug classifications.

They are both used for COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases i.e. emphysema and bronchitis) whenever there’s sufficient proof of a progressing airway spasm (narrowing down of the air passages). As bronchodilators, the two generally relax the muscles of the bronchi thereby increasing the passageway for air and oxygen. However, because Atrovent or ipratropium is considered as an anticholinergic drug (the first type of bronchodilator) while albuterol is known as s sympathomimetic beta agonist (targets the beta receptors) they have different specific mechanisms of drug action. Methylxanthines is the third type of bronchodilator.

Foremost, Atrovent is actually a brand name for the drug compound known as ipratropium. It comes from atropine and has an antimuscarinic effect. As such, it has similar effects to atropine (also another anticholinergic drug) especially when given intravenously. If it is given via inhalation, it is said that Atrovent is labsorbed less effectively. In fact, only about 1% of the active ingredient is absorbed by the body. But this component provides near complete protection from bronchoconstriction (spasms). Peak bronchodilation happens in 0.5 to 1.5 hours but the duration may last from 4 to 6 hours.

On the contrary, Albuterol (with popular brand names such as Ventolin and Proventil) is considered as a short-acting bronchodilator. Its duration of effect is similar to Atrovent (4 to 6 hours). Because albuterol is a drug composed of the 50% bronchoconstricting and another 50% bronchodilating components of Albuterol: R & S-Albuterol), the key to effective asthma management is determined by increasing the bronchodilating component. Dosing is about 2 puffs for every 4-6 hour period. But in some cases, more frequent dosing may be required.

If the pulmonary condition or asthma is still not managed well, Albuterol may be combined with Atrovent to increase drug efficacy. The two drugs have synergistic drug action which makes the treatment more effective. Nevertheless, there’s even a drug named Combivent which is already a combination of the two bronchodilators. This is a more expensive drug and is gaining more grounds in the realm of asthma management.

1. Atrovent is an anticholinergic bronchodilator while Albuterol is a beta agonist sympathomimetic (mimics the effects of sympathetic nervous system stimulation) bronchodilator.


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