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Tuesday 01 February 2000

Levalbuterol nebulizer solution: is it worth five times the cost of albuterol?

By: Asmus MJ, Hendeles L.

Pharmacotherapy 2000 Feb;20(2):123-9

Albuterol is a 50:50 mixture of R-albuterol, the active enantiomer, and S-albuterol, which appears to be inactive in humans. The Food and Drug Administration recently approved levalbuterol, the pure R-isomer, as a preservative-free nebulizer solution. Published studies indicate that it is neither safer nor more effective than an equimolar dose of racemic albuterol (levalbuterol 1.25 mg = albuterol 2.5 mg). However, these studies were conducted in patients with stable asthma (at the top of the dose-response curve), whereas a nebulized bronchodilator most likely would be used by patients with an acute exacerbation. Because such patients, in the hospital setting, often require higher doses of albuterol, the manufacturer's recommended dose of levalbuterol is likely to be too low for rescue therapy. Levalbuterol may cost as much as 5 times more than racemic albuterol, depending on purchase method. We conclude that levalbuterol offers no advantage over albuterol but is likely to be more costly.

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