Theophylline is a common name for prescription drugs Uniphyl (in Canada) and Theo-24.
It is used to treat symptoms of airflow obstruction, such as wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness and lung disease.
Theophylline is included in the class of drugs called bronchodilators, which relax your smooth muscles of the bronchi, expand the air passages in the airways (bronchi and bronchioles).
The drug also helps prevent some asthma attacks.
You should not use theophylline if you are hypersensitive to the drug or its components.
Theophylline can also worsen some of the conditions, so you should not use it if you have:
- Convulsive disorder
- Some forms of cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart rate)
Under certain conditions, the drug can remain in your body longer than usual and accumulate to unsafe levels, leading to fatal toxic reactions.
In these cases, you should not take theophylline, unless the benefits clearly outweigh the risks, and then your doctor will have to carefully decide on the dosage and monitor your blood at the drug level.
Conditions that can lead to a lethal toxic reaction:
- Be younger than 1 year or older than 60 years
- Accumulation of fluid in the lungs (acute pulmonary edema)
- Liver disease, acute hepatitis or cirrhosis
- A diet high in protein
- Blood infection
- Smoking cessation
- Taking or stopping some medications during therapy with theophylline
- You should be very careful about other drugs that you take
Pregnancy and Theophylline
Animal studies have shown that the drug can cause birth defects, but adequate and controlled studies have not been conducted in pregnant women.
Theophylline should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefits for the mother outweigh the risks to her unborn child.
If you are breastfeeding, you should not take theophylline.
Theophylline for dogs and cats
The FDA has not approved theophylline for veterinary medicine, but it is usually prescribed for the treatment of heart failure, asthma, pulmonary edema, bronchitis in cats and dogs.
Like humans, pets often have problems with theophylline if they have certain health conditions or take other medicines.
Potential side effects include anxiety, upset stomach, frequent urination and fast heartbeat.
Always talk to your pet’s veterinarian before giving the dog or cat any prescription medication, including theophylline.
Theophylline: side effects
Although these effects are common, they can be serious and probably mean that your doctor should change the dosage.
Tell your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms, and if the effect becomes serious, seek medical help immediately:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach upset
- Loss of appetite
- Fast, strong heartbeat
- Irregular heartbeat
- Problems with falling asleep (insomnia), anxiety and irritability.
- Skin rash
Severe side effects
You need urgent medical treatment if you are experiencing:
Rare side effects
Immediately notify your doctor or get emergency medical help if you experience the following side effects:
- Abdominal pain
- Urinary problems, including frequent or infrequent urges and hyperuricemia (high uric acid levels)
- Allergic reaction
Some drugs can affect the ability of your body to process theophylline, which can lead to an increase in body levels to insecure levels.
In addition, theophylline interacts with a wide range of other drugs, so it is especially important to tell the doctor about any medications that you take, even if you smoke tobacco.
The following drugs are especially important to tell the doctor about them before taking theophylline:
- Adenosine (Adenoscan)
- Aminoglutimide (Citadren)
- Oral contraceptives
- Flurazepam (Dalmane)
- Halothane (Fluuotan)
- Isoproterenol (Isuprel)
- Mexiletine (Mexitil)
- Pancuronium (Pavulon)
- Penoxifylline (Trenal)
- Propafenone (Rythmol)
- Roflumilast (DALIRESP)
- Sulfinpyrazone (anthuran)
- Tacrine (Cognex)
- Thiabendazole (Mintezol)
- Ticlopidine (Tyclid)
- Trolandomycin (Tao)
Theophylline and alcohol
Drinking alcohol when taking theophylline can lead to the fact that the drug will be in the body longer by 30 percent, which can lead to serious toxic effects.
Therefore, you should not consume alcohol while taking theophylline.
Your doctor can start with a low dose of theophylline, and then gradually increase, controlling your symptoms and blood levels of the drug.
Theophylline (Uniphyl and Theo-24) is supplied in the form of controlled-release tablets, which are usually taken once a day with food or for one to two hours after ingestion.
Theophylline can also be taken several times a day in the form of a solution for oral administration.
Tablets must be swallowed whole. You should not chew, split or crush them.
A sudden overdose of too much theophylline is rare.
However, a chronic overdose is not uncommon, especially if you are taking a dose that is too high for a long time or if your dose has recently been increased.
Overdose can cause a slow heart rhythm, cramps, circulatory failure and death.
If you suspect an overdose, you should immediately contact a toxicology center or an emergency room.
The missed dose of theophylline
Absence of a dose of theophylline can lead to the appearance of asthma or bronchitis symptoms.
If you remember about a missed dose within 6 hours after the last dose, immediately take the missed dose.
Take half the dose if you remember about it between 6 and 18 hours after the last dose.
If it’s been more than 18 hours, skip it and take the next dose at the usual dosing time.
Never increase the dose of theophylline.