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Last Updated on March 16, 2024

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The active ingredient Theophylline is one of the most important drugs for respiratory diseases that are associated with breathlessness such as asthma. He was discovered in 1888 and is now included in many medications. Theophylline is generally well tolerated, but must be carefully dosed. Children and pregnant women should medicines containing Theophylline, only after consultation with the doctor taking. Here you can read everything about Theophylline.

How Theophylline works

Asthma is a chronic, inflammatory disease of the airways, which may lead to paroxysmal dyspnea. In attack multiplies forms tenacious mucus in the airways and this tense, making breathing difficult.

In most cases the attack is triggered by an allergic reaction (allergic asthma). Through a genetic predisposition, patients are particularly sensitive to certain triggers (allergens). Upon contact, the body’s defense system (immune system) reacts on and “tense” the lungs.

There is also an asthma form, when can not define triggers (for example, cold air, pregnancy, stress, or certain medications). But the symptoms are shortness of breath and cough here.

both cases, an inflammatory disease process underlying why the treatment can be carried out equally.

Theophylline acts bronchi-expanding and inhibits the release of messenger molecules, which are necessary for an inflammatory reaction. The active ingredient can therefore be used for prevention and treatment of respiratory distress.

Pharmacokinetics and metabolism of Theophylline

The drug is almost completely absorbed into the blood from the intestine after ingestion by mouth (orally). The reduction takes place in the liver, then the degradation products are excreted primarily through the kidneys.

When is Theophylline used?

Among the areas of application (indications) of Theophylline include:

  • prevent asthma attacks (medium weight and nocturnal asthma)
  • treatment of acute asthma attack
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Chronic pneumonia (bronchitis)
  • emphysema (hyperinflation: lung disease, in which the oxygen uptake is reduced)

How Theophylline is taken?

The drug Theophylline has a very small “therapeutic range”. This means that with respect to dosage between ineffectiveness and overdose only a very narrow ridge is where you will find the right dose for an optimal effect. For this reason, the drug is usually prescribed in the form of drugs, the active ingredient continuously release (so-called “slow-release” tablets or capsules). This ensures that in the blood are always constant amounts of the active ingredient. The daily dose must be determined individually for each patient.

The active ingredient may also be applied in an acute asthma attack. In this case, solutions are available that are injected intravenously and therefore can take effect immediately.

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children, adolescents and smokers get a suitably adapted dosage.

Ideally, Theophylline is combined with other medicines to treat respiratory distress disorders such as glucocorticoids or β 2-sympathomimetics as Salbutamol, salmeterol or fenoterol.

What are the side effects of Theophylline?

Occasionally call drugs with Theophylline side effects such as restlessness, cramps, rapid pulse, nausea, and increased excretion of water produced. These side effects can be prevented by regular blood level measurements and dose adjustments.

What should I watch for while taking Theophylline?

In patients with hepatic and renal impairment must be paid very close attention to the individual dose. The dose adjustment should only be performed by experienced personnel.


medication with Theophylline should not be used if the Treated with seizure disorders ((hyperthyroidism) or heart disease suffers.


The drug Theophylline may interact with some other medicines. He strengthened when co-administered, the effect of the following:

  • other asthma medications (β 2-sympathomimetics as Salbutamol or fenoterol)
  • Caffeine

Conversely, Theophylline antagonize the effects of the following active ingredients:

  • Lithium (medicines for mental illness)
  • benzodiazepines (tranquilizers)

By taking the following medicines the efficacy of Theophylline is weakened:

  • remedy for epilepsy (called antiepileptic drugs such as phenobarbital, primidone, Phenytoin or Carbamazepine)
  • rifampicin (medicines for tuberculosis)
  • ritonavir (for HIV)
  • (for depression)

The following drugs increase the effects and side effects of Theophylline:

  • The “Pill” (contraceptive)
  • certain antibiotics (such as Erythromycin, Clarithromycin, fluoroquinolones and Ciprofloxacin)
  • Verapamil, Diltiazem (medicines for heart rhythm disturbances)
  • Propranolol (remedy)
  • the blood thinner ticlopidine
  • cimetidine and Ranitidine (agent for stomach problems)
  • gout agent Allopurinol and febuxostat
  • Acyclovir (remedy for herpes)

Driving and using machines

By taking Theophylline responsiveness may be impaired. Experts recommend therefore treated, not to drive or operate heavy machinery on the road.


infants under six months should receive medication with Theophylline only after strict risk-benefit assessment by the responsible doctor.

Pregnancy and lactation

Experience has shown that ingestion of Theophylline during pregnancy can be classified as relatively harmless. There is no damage in the newborns were observed. It came in the child only slight overdose symptoms such as accelerated respiration rate and slightly elevated pulse, but which were reversible.

Even during lactation medication may be taken with Theophylline.

How to get Theophylline

medication with Theophylline are only available on prescription. You get it therefore only with a prescription from a doctor in pharmacy.

Since when Theophylline is known?

Theophylline is already known relatively long. Already in 1888, the substance was first isolated from tea leaves, ultimately the chemical structure but was until 1895 fully elucidated. Theophylline belongs to the group of medicines called xanthine derivatives, which include caffeine counts. The effects of Theophylline and caffeine overlap in some parts: The two substances have a slightly diuretic. In addition, coffee (caffeine) as Theophylline relieve asthma symptoms – even if only to a small extent

You can find representatives of the xanthines (Theophylline , theobromine, caffeine) in coffee beans, black and green tea, kola nuts and guarana.

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