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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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  1. Did not say if atrovent was a fast relief inhaler like albuteral. I am confused. Is it a fast relif or slow acting?

    • Neither drug can replace your Ventolin. It is a Emergency/Rescue inhaler. Advair is a maintenance drug only. Atrovent is used in between the other two drugs. It is excellent if tolerated well. I’m unable to use as I get increased blood pressure along with increased heart rate. If your dealing with a COPD. SPIRIVA is the go to drug. It is excellent there is no comparison to Advair or Breo. If its Asthma. The top of the line Emergency inhaler is Xopenex. Less jitters. Longer acting and only a few bucks more than Ventolin. Good luck. These drugs all should only be prescribed by a Pulmonologist. Never a primary care.

  2. Can I use atrovent to replace either my ventolin or advair twice a day inhalers

  3. I am currently taking Salbutamal and atrovent. I don’t know which one I should take first. I am still having a problem with being able to cough mucus out of my lungs. Advice please


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