The pharmacological rationale for combining muscarinic receptor antagonists and β-adrenoceptor agonists in the treatment of airway and bladder disease

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Muscarinic receptor antagonists and β-adrenoceptor agonists are used in the treatment of obstructive airway disease and overactive bladder syndrome. Here we review the pharmacological rationale for their combination. Muscarinic receptors and β-adrenoceptors are physiological antagonists for smooth muscle tone in airways and bladder. Muscarinic agonism may attenuate β-adrenoceptor-mediated relaxation more than other contractile stimuli. Chronic treatment with one drug class may regulate expression of the target receptor but also that of the opposing receptor. Prejunctional β2-adrenoceptors can enhance neuronal acetylcholine release. Moreover, at least in the airways, muscarinic receptors and β-adrenoceptors are expressed in different locations, indicating that only a combined modulation of both systems may cause dilatation along the entire bronchial tree. While all of these factors contribute to a rationale for a combination of muscarinic receptor antagonists and β-adrenoceptor agonists, the full value of such combination as compared to monotherapy can only be determined in clinical studies.

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