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What Is Formoterol Fumerate?

By Clara Kedrek
Updated May 17, 2024
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Formoterol fumerate is a medication used to treat patients with conditions that constrict the airway and make breathing difficult, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma. The drug helps to relax the airways, increasing their size and allowing air to pass in and out of the lungs more easily. It is administered as an inhaled medication, using either an inhaler or a nebulizer machine. Common side effects can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and insomnia.

In order to understand the clinical uses of formoterol fumerate, it helps to understand how this medication works. Formoterol, which is the active ingredient in this medication, binds to cellular receptors called the beta-2 adrenergic receptors and activates them. These receptors are found in various locations and can cause functional changes in the body. One function of activation of the beta-2 adrenergic receptors is to cause a relaxation of the airways. Since formoterol works by binding to these receptors, and has an prolonged effect, it is often referred to as a long-acting beta-2 adrenergic agonist (LABA).

Patients are typically prescribed formoterol fumerate in order to take advantage of its ability to relax the airways. It causes the diameter of the airways to increase, making it easier for air to pass in and out of the lungs. Doctors most commonly prescribe this medication to patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as they can benefit from medications that open the airways. It is also used to treat patients with asthma, or those with a condition called exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, who experience a narrowing of their airways when they exercise.

Since formoterol fumerate is used to help relax the airways, it is administered as an inhaled substance. Patients often use the medication twice daily as an inhaler, regardless of the symptoms they might be having. The medication can also be used in conjunction with a nebulizer machine, which is a device that administers medications as an inhaled mist. In the United States, formoterol is available by prescription only. It is sold under the brand names Perforomist® and Foradil®.

Common side effects of formoterol fumerate can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, insomnia, and dry mouth. Occasionally it can cause some laboratory abnormalities, such as high levels of glucose and low levels of potassium in the blood, but these alterations are typically short-lived. Some patients might be allergic to the medication and can develop swelling of the airways that could be fatal.

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