How effective is theophylline at treating asthma?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

Theophylline is an alternative treatment for asthma. When taken alone, it improves lung function, but is less effective than inhaled corticosteroids for controlling asthma symptoms. Combining theophylline with an inhaled corticosteroid treatment also improves lung function, but does not add to the effects of inhaled corticosteroids on symptoms or quality of life.

In children, theophylline is as effective as inhaled corticosteroids in improving lung function, but less effective in terms of preventing symptoms. When added to treatment with an inhaled corticosteroid, theophylline can help improve lung function (measured by peak expiratory flow). 

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