For the last quarter of 2013, the sales of ProAir HFA, an abuterol inhaler, were over $300 million dollars.  This number is only representative of three months and only one of the albuterol inhalers (there are several).  Bottom line,  albuterol is very widely prescribed in the United States and is most commonly used to treat asthma which is the most common chronic disease that affects Americans.  

Several years ago, manufacturers were required to remove chlorofluorocarbon, a propellant in inhalers, from inhalers due to environmental reasons. This resulted in new patents of albuterol which is why a lot of brand name inhalers came back into the market as the generic albuterol inhaler was being phased out starting in 2008.  ProAir HFA, Ventolin HVA, Proventil HFA, Accuneb and VoSpire ER are some of the brand names of albuterol inhalers and nebulizer treatments.  There are also many combination products (albuterol combined with another medication) available.  

What is albuterol for:
Albuterol is used to treat bronchospasm (constriction of the bronchiole walls in the lungs) caused by asthma or exercise and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), as well as cystic fibrosis and hyperkalemia.  

How does albuterol work:
Albuterol is a short-acting beta-2 agonist which means that it works by relaxing the smooth muscle of the bronchioles.  

What are some side effects that I should be aware of:


  • Headache

  • Tachycardia (fast heart rate)

  • Increased serum glucose

  • Shakiness, nervousness

  • Muscle cramps

  • Upper respiratory infection

  • Pharyngitis

  • Throat irritation

What should I know about albuterol:


  • Do not use albuterol if you've had an allergic reaction in the past

  • Talk to your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

  • If you have kidney disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, thyroid disorder, low potassium, diabetes or a seizure disorder, talk to your doctor

  • Call your doctor right away if you experience a fast heartbeat or uneven heartbeat or chest pain

  • You should not start albuterol within 14 days of taking an MAOI inhibitor (used for depression)

  • Learning how to use your inhaler or nebulizer can be tricky! Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or a healthcare provider so that you can make sure your technique is correct.

EducationJoanna Simmon