A healthcare provider may prescribe Azmacort to prevent asthma attacks. While the medicine cannot be used to treat or cure asthma, it can be taken two to four times a day to help prevent attacks from occurring. As a steroid, the medication works by reducing the inflammation in the airways that makes asthma attacks more likely. Commonly reported side effects include headaches, a sore throat, and sinus infections.
As of December 2009, the manufacturer of Azmacort decided to stop making the drug in order to comply with regulations concerning chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), chemicals that may deplete the ozone layer. Had Azmacort been a more popular drug, the manufacturer probably would have chosen to reformulate it without CFCs, instead of just discontinuing it. Any unexpired Azmacort inhalers still in pharmacies may be dispensed until December 31, 2010, after which they can no longer be sold in the United States.
Azmacort is made by Abbott Laboratories.
Normally, air moves easily into and out of the lungs through a network of airways. However, when you have asthma, the inside walls of your airways are inflamed (swollen). This inflammation makes the airways sensitive, and they tend to react strongly to things that you are allergic to or find irritating (see Asthma Triggers). When the airways react, the muscles around these airways tighten, inflammation inside the airways increases, and the cells inside the airways produce more mucus. This narrows the airways and makes it harder to breathe.
Azmacort belongs to a group of drugs called inhaled corticosteroids, or steroids for short. Inhaled steroids go directly into the lungs and help to decrease the inflammation of the airways that makes asthma attacks more likely. Because this medication does not work quickly, it should not be used for treating an asthma attack. Rather, it is used regularly in order to prevent them.
Because Azmacort is inhaled directly into the lungs, the rest of the body is exposed to lower steroid levels, compared to steroids taken by mouth. This helps reduce or eliminate many of the side effects associated with long-term steroid use.
(Click Asthma Treatment for information about other medicines used for managing asthma.)