β2-Agonist Therapy in Lung Disease

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Abstract

β2-Agonists are effective bronchodilators due primarily to their ability to relax airway smooth muscle (ASM). They exert their effects via their binding to the active site of β2-adrenoceptors on ASM, which triggers a signaling cascade that results in a number of events, all of which contribute to relaxation of ASM. There are some differences between β2-agonists. Traditional inhaled short-acting β2-agonists albuterol, fenoterol, and terbutaline provide rapid as-needed symptom relief and short-term prophylactic protection against bronchoconstriction induced by exercise or other stimuli. The twice-daily β2-agonists formoterol and salmeterol represent important advances. Their effective bronchodilating properties and long-term improvement in lung function offer considerable clinical benefits to patients. More recently, a newer β2-agonist (indacaterol) with a longer pharmacodynamic half-life has been discovered, with the hopes of achieving once-daily dosing. In general, β2-agonists have an acceptable safety profile, although there is still controversy as to whether long-acting β2-agonists may increase the risk of asthma mortality. In any case, they can induce adverse effects, such as increased heart rate, palpitations, transient decrease in PaO2, and tremor. Desensitization of β2-adrenoceptors that occurs during the first few days of regular use of β2-agonist treatment may account for the commonly observed resolution of the majority of these adverse events after the first few doses. Nevertheless, it can also induce tolerance to bronchoprotective effects of β2-agonists and has the potential to reduce bronchodilator sensitivity to them. Some novel once-daily β2-agonists (olodaterol, vilanterol, abediterol) are under development, mainly in combination with an inhaled corticosteroid or a long-acting antimuscarinic agent.

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