What are Budesonide and Formoterol Used for?

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  • Written By: Jami Yontz
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2019
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Budesonide and formoterol are two types of drugs used together to depress symptoms of asthma. While budesonide and formoterol can be used separately, studies have shown that a combination of the chemicals is much more effective for improving lung function in people with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The combination of budesonide and formoterol works to reduce inflammation of the lungs, and also relaxes the airway muscles to allow a person with asthma to increase their oxygen intake and breathe more natually.

Corticosteroids are a type of hormone made by the adrenal gland. Budesonide is a synthetic steroid that resembles corticosteroids. When used as an ingredient in asthma inhalers, budesonide reduces the inflammation and spasms of the airway in people with asthma. It also prevents wheezing and shortness of breath. Budesonide is not a fast-acting inhalant, and is only prescribed for long-term use to prevent asthma attacks. Many times, the full effects of budesonide are not seen for nearly two weeks.


Formoterol is a beta-adrenergic receptor agent that works to both relax and open the muscles in the airway, allowing more air to travel to the lungs. The active agents in formoterol last for up to 12 hours, so the drug should be taken twice a day at most. Just like budesonide, formoterol is only used for the treatment of symptoms and the prevention of an asthma attack or bronchospasms, as therefore is not considered a useful chemical to take during an asthma attack. Also, formoterol should only be taken alongside another asthma controller, or in a form where is combined with another medication, such as budensonide. Formoterol is available in a capsule form, which is punctured and released for inhalation by a specialized inhaler.

A combination of budesonide and formoterol, sold commercially as Symbicort®, has been shown to be a much more effective asthma controller than if a person were to use the chemicals separately. In long-term studies, the combination of budesonide and formoterol has shown to provide more relief from symptoms and prevent more asthmatic attacks, and it is becoming the preferred prescription by physicians as a way to maintain a person’s asthma symptoms. It usually is only prescribed for people with severe asthma, and people who have tried taking fast-acting inhalers for symptoms but have not used budesonide and formoterol have not seen effective results. The combination is available as either a powder or in liquid form for inhalation.


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