Terbutaline | Side Effects, Dosage, Uses & More
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Generic Name:

terbutaline, Oral tablet

All Brands

  • Brethine (Discontinued)
A discontinued drug is a drug that has been taken off the market due to safety issues, shortage of raw materials, or low market demand.
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Highlights for terbutaline

Oral tablet
1

Terbutaline is used to treat asthma and bronchospasm caused by bronchitis or emphysema. Bronchospasm causes your airways in your lungs to become narrow. This can lead to wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.

2

Common side effects include nervousness, tremors, and headaches.

3

If your dose of terbutaline doesn’t improve your breathing as much as it used to, this may mean that your asthma isn’t controlled. Your doctor may give you an anti-inflammatory drug, such as a corticosteroid.

4

This medication may cause heart problems, including high blood pressure and fast heart rate.

5

You shouldn’t use this drug for stopping premature labor in pregnancy.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

FDA warning

This drug has a Black Box Warning. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A black box warning alerts doctors and patients to potentially dangerous effects.

Not for stopping premature labor (tocolysis) warning. This medication shouldn’t be used to slow down or stop premature labor in pregnant women. It could cause serious side effects in pregnant women, such as high heart rate, low potassium levels, and heart problems. It may even be fatal. It could also cause fast heartbeat and low blood sugar in your unborn child.

Heart rate and blood pressure

In rare cases, terbutaline may increase your heart rate and blood pressure. If you have a heart issue, talk to you doctor before starting this drug.

Seizures

Rarely, this drug can cause seizures. If you have a seizure disorder, talk to you doctor before starting terbutaline.

What is terbutaline?

Terbutaline is a prescription drug. It’s available in these forms: oral tablet and intravenous (IV), which is only given by a healthcare provider.

Terbutaline is only available as a generic drug. Terbutaline may be taken as part of a combination therapy with anti-inflammatory drugs (corticosteroids).

Why it's used

Terbutaline is used to treat asthma and airway narrowing (bronchospasm) caused by bronchitis or emphysema.

How it works

Terbutaline belongs to a class of drugs called beta-adrenergic agonist bronchodilators.

More Details

How it works

Terbutaline belongs to a class of drugs called beta-adrenergic agonist bronchodilators. A class of drugs refers to medications that work similarly. They have a similar chemical structure and are often used to treat similar conditions.

Terbutaline works by relaxing the muscles in your airway passages (bronchial tubes) in your lungs. This opens up your breathing airways, which makes it easier for you to breathe.

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terbutaline Side Effects

Oral tablet

Most Common Side Effects

The most common side effects that occur with terbutaline include:

  • nervousness

  • tremor

  • headache

  • fast heart rate

If these effects are mild, they may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious Side Effects

If you experience any of these serious side effects, call your doctor right away. If your symptoms are potentially life-threatening or if you think you’re experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

  • hallucinations

Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Terbutaline does not usually cause drowsiness.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss possible side effects with a healthcare provider who knows your medical history.
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terbutaline May Interact with Other Medications

Oral tablet

Terbutaline can interact with other medications, vitamins, or herbs you may be taking. An interaction is when a substance changes the way a drug works. This can be harmful or prevent the drug from working well.

To help avoid interactions, your doctor should manage all of your medications carefully. Be sure to tell your doctor about all medications, vitamins, or herbs you’re taking. To find out how this drug might interact with something else you’re taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Medications that might interact with this drug

Depression drugs

Certain drugs used to treat depression can enhance the toxic effect of terbutaline. This can cause side effects.

These drugs include:

  • tricyclic antidepressants, such as:
    • amitriptyline
    • doxepin
  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), such as:
    • phenelzine
    • selegiline

Heart drugs

Terbutaline might not work as well in people with asthma when taken with beta blockers. This could lead to airways narrowing (bronchospasm) and trouble breathing.

These drugs include:

  • metoprolol
  • labetalol

Taking loop or thiazide diuretics with terbutaline may change your heart rate and decrease the amount of potassium in your body.

These drugs include:

  • furosemide
  • hydrochlorothiazide

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs interact differently in each person, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible interactions. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with all prescription drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements, and over-the-counter drugs that you are taking.
Terbutaline warnings
heart problems
People with heart problems

In rare cases, terbutaline can change your heart rate and blood pressure. If you have a heart issue, talk to you doctor before starting this drug.

Pregnant women
Pregnant women

Terbutaline is a category C pregnancy drug. That means two things:

  1. Research in animals has shown adverse effects to the fetus when the mother takes the drug.
  2. There haven’t been enough studies done in humans to be certain how the drug might affect the fetus.

Talk to your doctor if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant. This drug should only be used if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.

breast-feeding
Women who are breast-feeding

Terbutaline passes into breast milk and may cause side effects in a child who is breastfed.

Talk to your doctor if you breastfeed your baby. You may need to decide whether to stop breastfeeding or stop taking this medication.

seniors
For seniors

Older adults may process drugs more slowly. A normal adult dose may cause levels of this drug to be higher than normal in your body. If you’re a senior, you may need a lower dose or a different schedule.

children
For children

This medicine hasn’t been studied in children and shouldn’t be used in children younger than 12 years.

allergies
Allergies

Terbutaline may cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms can include:

  • trouble breathing
  • swelling of your throat or tongue

Don’t take this drug again if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to it. Taking it again could be fatal (cause death).

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How to Take terbutaline (Dosage)

Oral tablet

All possible dosages and forms may not be included here. Your dose, form, and how often you take it will depend on:

  • your age
  • the condition being treated
  • how severe your condition is
  • other medical conditions you have
  • how you react to the first dose

What are you taking this medication for?

Asthma and bronchospasm

Generic: terbutaline

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 2.5 mg, 5 mg
Adult dosage (ages 18–64 years)

The starting dose is 5 mg taken by mouth three times per day, 6 hours apart. If you develop side effects, your doctor may lower your dose to 2.5 mg taken by mouth 3 times per day, every 6 hours. The maximum dose is 15 mg in one 24-hour period.

Child dosage (ages 16–17 years)

The starting dose is 5 mg taken by mouth three times per day, 6 hours apart. If you develop side effects, your doctor may lower your dose to 2.5 mg taken by mouth 3 times per day, every 6 hours. The maximum dose is 15 mg in one 24-hour period.

Child dosage (ages 12–15 years)

The starting dose is 2.5 mg taken by mouth 3 times per day. The maximum dose is 7.5 mg in one 24-hour period.

Child dosage (ages 0–11 years)

This medicine hasn’t been studied in children younger than 12 years and shouldn’t be used in children younger than 12 years.

Senior dosage (ages 65 years and older)

There are no specific recommendations for senior dosing. Older adults may process drugs more slowly. A normal adult dose may cause levels of this drug to be higher than normal in your body. If you’re a senior, you may need a lower dose or a different schedule.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this list includes all possible dosages. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about dosages that are right for you.
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Terbutaline comes with serious risks if you don’t take it as prescribed.

If you stop taking the drug suddenly or don’t take it at all

If you don’t take terbutaline at all or stop taking it suddenly, your asthma may get worse. This could lead to serious breathing problems.

If you miss doses or don’t take the drug on schedule

If you don’t take terbutaline on schedule, your asthma may not stay controlled. You may have more frequent episodes of breathing problems.

What to do if you miss a dose

Take your dose as soon as you remember. But if you remember just a few hours before your next scheduled dose, take only one dose. Never try to catch up by taking two doses at once. This could result in dangerous side effects.

If you take too much

If you take too much, you may experience side effects, such as:

  • seizures
  • low or high blood pressure
  • irregular heart rate
  • tremors
  • dry mouth

If you think you’ve taken too much of the drug, act right away. Call your doctor or local Poison Control Center, or go to the nearest emergency room.

How to tell if the drug is working

Your asthma symptoms will be better controlled and you’ll be less likely to have breathing problems.

Terbutaline is a long-term drug treatment.

Important considerations for taking terbutaline
can crush tablet
You can crush the tablet and mix it with food if you have trouble swallowing
storage
Store terbutaline at room temperature
See Details
Prescription is refillable
Prescription is refillable
travel
Travel
See Details
clinical monitoring
Clinical monitoring
See Details
not usually stocked
Not every pharmacy stocks this drug, so call ahead

Store terbutaline at room temperature

  • Store terbutaline at room temperature from 68°F (20°C) to 77°F (25°C).
  • Keep it away from high temperature.
  • Keep this drug away from light.
  • Keep your drugs away from areas where they could get wet, such as bathrooms.
  • Store this drug away from moisture and damp locations.

Travel

When traveling with your medication:

  • Always carry your medication with you, such as in your carry-on bag.
  • Don’t worry about airport x-ray machines. They can’t hurt your medication.
  • You may need to show airport staff the pharmacy label for your medication. Always carry the original prescription-labeled box with you.
  • Don’t put this medication in your car’s glove compartment or leave it in the car. Be sure to avoid doing this when the weather is very hot or very cold.

Clinical monitoring

Your doctor should monitor certain health issues. This can help make sure you stay safe while you take this drug. These issues include:

  • heart function, if you’re having side effects
  • potassium levels, if you’re having side effects
  • lung (pulmonary) function

Are there any alternatives?

There are other drugs available to treat your condition. Some may be better suited for you than others. Talk to your doctor about other drug options that may work for you.

What does the pill look like?

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How Much Does terbutaline Cost?

Oral tablet

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Lowest price for terbutaline

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These prices represent the lowest priced national pharmacies for terbutaline on GoodRx. They may be lower than your insurance.

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These prices represent the lowest priced national pharmacies for terbutaline on GoodRx. They may be lower than your insurance.

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Content developed in collaboration with University of Illinois-Chicago, Drug Information Group

Medically reviewed by Creighton University, Center for Drug Information and Evidence-Based Practice on August 31, 2015

Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.
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