Levalbuterol (brand name, Xopenex) is a short-acting bronchodilator (a quick-relief or rescue bronchodilator) that relaxes airway muscles, increasing air flow to the lungs.1
The inhalation aerosol is used to treat or prevent bronchospasms in people with obstructive airway conditions, such as asthma and cystic fibrosis (CF).
How levalbuterol works
Levalbuterol activates receptors on the smooth muscles of the airways, leading to a cascade of reactions that ultimately lower intracellular calcium and cause the muscles to relax. It affects all airways, from the trachea to the terminal bronchioles. Levalbuterol also acts as a functional antagonist that relaxes the airways regardless of the spasmogen involved, thereby protecting against bronchoconstriction.2
Levalbuterol was developed because it caused fewer episodes of tachycardia than albuterol, with better tolerability and similar efficacy in patients with diseases such as CF.
Two studies regarding bronchospasm associated with asthma in adults and adolescents older than 12 evaluated levalbuterol’s efficacy and safety. In both studies, two inhalations (90 mcg) of levalbuterol lead to an improvement in FEV1 (forced expiratory volume in 1 second) compared to placebo.2
Although the participants in these studies were over 12 years old, levalbuterol is adequate in adults, adolescents, and children 4 years of age and older.3
The most common side effects of levalbuterol include accidental injury, bronchitis, dizziness, pain, sore throat, runny nose, vomiting, palpitations, chest pain, tremors, and nervousness.2
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