Zileuton is a medication a doctor may prescribe to a patient for the purpose of managing asthma. It is not a rescue medication and will not reverse acute bronchospasm in a patient having an asthma attack. The drug works by limiting production of leukotrienes, chemical compounds associated with narrowing of the airways and respiratory distress in people with asthma and allergies. Patients may know this drug by the brand name Zyflo®.
This drug first became available in the 1990s. It is suitable for use in patients with mild to moderate asthma who need a control medication to limit the number of asthma attacks they experience. Patients take two to four tablets daily, depending on whether they use the extended release form of zileuton, and should experience a reduction in the number and severity of asthma attacks. The doctor may also recommend other measures like avoiding allergens and known triggers for asthma attacks.
In the event of a bronchospasm, where the airways start to constrict, the patient will need to take a different medication to open up the airways and breathe normally. Albuterol is a common choice, although a doctor may prescribe something else, depending on the nature of the patient's condition. While managing and recovering from an asthma attack, patients should continue taking their zileuton to keep the concentration of the drug stable. Not keeping up with maintenance medications can make the asthma attack worse.
Some zileuton side effects can include difficulty sleeping, nausea, behavioral changes, and skin irritation. This drug can be harmful for patients with liver disease. Patients who notice symptoms like severe abdominal pain, prolonged insomnia, or hallucinations should discontinue use of the medication and discuss the situation with a doctor. The doctor may recommend switching to a different asthma maintenance medication.
Before taking zileuton, patients should review all medications they are taking, including drugs they buy over the counter, with a doctor. The doctor can evaluate the risks of a harmful drug interaction and decide whether the drug will be safe. Patients taking numerous medications may also be in need of a medical evaluation to determine if it is possible to change or consolidate medications to reduce the risk of harmful drug interactions. The use of herbal drugs and other preparations like over-the-counter sleep aids may also potentially be a method for dealing with side effects from another prescription, and it's possible a change could resolve the need for the extra medications.