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Home / Drugs / Starting with F / Formoterol

Formoterol is a long-acting (12 hours) beta2-agonist used in the management of asthma and/or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Inhaled formoterol works like other beta2-agonists, causing bronchodilatation through relaxation of the smooth muscle in the airway so as to treat the exacerbation of asthma.
Oxeze Turbuhaler
Oxeze Turbuhaler Foradil
CategoriesBronchodilator Agents
Adrenergic beta-Agonists
ManufacturersNovartis pharmaceuticals corp
Dey pharma lp
PackagersAstraZeneca Inc.
Dey Pharma LP
Medisca Inc.
Novartis AG
Physicians Total Care Inc.
Schering Corp.
SynonymsFormoterol fumarate
Formoterolum [INN-Latin]


For use as long-term maintenance treatment of asthma in patients 6 years of age and older with reversible obstructive airways disease, including patients with symptoms of nocturnal asthma, who are using optimal corticosteroid treatment and experiencing regular or frequent breakthrough symptoms requiring use of a short-acting bronchodilator. Not indicated for asthma that can be successfully managed with occasional use of an inhaled, short-acting beta2-adrenergic agonist. Also used for the prevention of exercise-induced bronchospasm, as well as long-term treatment of bronchospasm associated with COPD.


Formoterol is a long-acting selective beta2-adrenergic receptor agonist (beta2-agonist). Inhaled formoterol fumarate acts locally in the lung as a bronchodilator. In vitro studies have shown that formoterol has more than 200-fold greater agonist activity at beta2-receptors than at beta1- receptors. Although beta2-receptors are the predominant adrenergic receptors in bronchial smooth muscle and beta1-receptors are the predominant receptors in the heart, there are also beta2-receptors in the human heart comprising 10%-50% of the total beta-adrenergic receptors. The precise function of these receptors has not been established, but they raise the possibility that even highly selective beta2- agonists may have cardiac effects.

mechanism of action

The pharmacologic effects of beta2-adrenoceptor agonist drugs, including formoterol, are at least in part attributable to stimulation of intracellular adenyl cyclase, the enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to cyclic-3', 5'-adenosine monophosphate (cyclic AMP). Increased cyclic AMP levels cause relaxation of bronchial smooth muscle and inhibits the release of pro-inflammatory mast-cell mediators such as histamine and leukotrienes. Formoterol also inhibits histamine-induced plasma albumin extravasation in anesthetized guinea pigs and inhibits allergen-induced eosinophil influx in dogs with airway hyper-responsiveness. The relevance of these in vitro and animal findings to humans is unknown.


An overdosage is likely to lead to effects that are typical of ß2-adrenergic stimulants: nausea, vomiting, headache, tremor, somnolence, palpitations, tachycardia, ventricular arrhythmias, metabolic acidosis, hypokalemia, hyperglycemia.


Metabolized primarily by direct glucuronidation at either the phenolic or aliphatic hydroxyl group and O-demethylation followed by glucuronide conjugation at either phenolic hydroxyl groups. Minor pathways involve sulfate conjugation of formoterol and deformylation followed by sulfate conjugation. The most prominent pathway involves direct conjugation at the phenolic hydroxyl group. The second major pathway involves O-demethylation followed by conjugation at the phenolic 2'-hydroxyl group. Four cytochrome P450 isozymes (CYP2D6, CYP2C19, CYP2C9 and CYP2A6) are involved in the O-demethylation of formoterol.


Rapidly absorbed into plasma following administration by oral inhalation. It is likely that the majority of the inhaled formoterol delivered is swallowed and then absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract.

half life

10 hours

route of elimination

Following inhalation of a 12 mcg or 24 mcg dose by 16 patients with asthma, about 10% and 15%-18% of the total dose was excreted in the urine as unchanged formoterol and direct conjugates of formoterol, respectively.

drug interactions

Acebutolol: Antagonism

Atenolol: Antagonism

Betaxolol: Beta-Blockers (Beta1 Selective) like betaxolol may diminish the bronchodilatory effect of Beta2-Agonists like formoterol. Therapy should be monitored.

Bevantolol: Antagonism

Bisoprolol: Antagonism

Carteolol: Antagonism

Carvedilol: Antagonism

Esmolol: Antagonism

Labetalol: Antagonism

Metoprolol: Antagonism

Nadolol: Antagonism

Oxprenolol: Antagonism

Penbutolol: Antagonism

Pindolol: Antagonism

Practolol: Antagonism

Propranolol: Antagonism

Sotalol: Antagonism

Timolol: Antagonism