Albuterol is the generic name of a medication that is prescribed for the treatment of some lung diseases. The drug eases bronchial spasms, or bronchospasms, associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, and it is available as an inhalant, a tablet and a syrup. As with other prescription and over-the-counter medications, interactions with other drugs are possible. People who must use this medication should be aware of possible albuterol interactions with some diuretics, beta blockers, tricyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors and digoxin.
Albuterol interactions with some drugs, such as beta blockers, lower the effectiveness of both medications. Some beta blockers react with albuterol more than others, and a patient should check with his or her health care provider or pharmacist before combining the two drugs. Some diuretics, when taken with albuterol, can cause a decrease of potassium in the body, a dangerous condition called hypokalemia that can lead to heart irregularities.
Digoxin is a drug used in the treatment of heart problems, and it affects the levels of potassium and sodium in the heart. Albuterol interactions can adversely affect a patient who takes digoxin by decreasing the amount of digoxin in a person’s system. Such albuterol interactions may make it necessary for a doctor to monitor the patient’s digoxin level more closely, which could result in a dosage adjustment.
Dangerous albuterol interactions can occur when the medication is combined with monoamine oxidase inhibitors, also known as MAOIs. Health experts recommend extreme caution with this combination because a dangerous decrease in blood pressure could result, a condition known as hypotension. Patients who take MAOIs and who also need albuterol should always consult their doctors before taking the two drugs together. Hypotension can also result when combining albuterol and tricyclic antidepressants.
Albuterol is often combined with other medications to treat asthma and COPD, such as salmeterol and fluticasone. Salmeterol is a bronchodilator, and fluticasone is a corticosteroid. Both of these drugs, like albuterol, are available only by prescription. Albuterol, when inhaled, can work relatively quickly, in about 15 minutes, and beneficial effects can continue for approximately six hours.
Possible albuterol side effects can include tremors, palpitations, nosebleeds, high blood pressure, dizziness, nervousness, headache, nausea and heartburn. Rarely, some people have also experienced paradoxical bronchospasms, swelling, hives and a rash. Not enough research is available to conclude whether the drug is safe to use during pregnancy, and some research suggests use during pregnancy can lead to birth defects.