Research Article

Theophylline in the management of airflow obstruction. 2. Difficult drugs to use, few clinical indications.

BMJ 1990; 300 doi: (Published 07 April 1990) Cite this as: BMJ 1990;300:929
  1. I D Johnston
  1. University Hospital, Nottingham.


    The narrow therapeutic index, potential toxicity, and need to monitor plasma concentrations make theophyllines difficult to use. Other drugs provide comparable or better bronchodilator and prophylactic efficacy. In asthma theophyllines should be considered for chronic stable asthma when treatment with optimal doses of inhaled steroids and bronchodilators fails to provide adequate control; for nocturnal asthma; and for prophylaxis and relief of symptoms in children and adults when inhaled treatment cannot be given. In general, theophyllines cannot be recommended for chronic airflow obstruction. A trial of theophylline is reasonable in individual patients whose symptoms remain troublesome despite a trial of steroids and optimal doses of inhaled bronchodilators.