Rapid onset of bronchodilation in COPD: a placebo-controlled study comparing formoterol (Foradil Aerolizer) with salbutamol (Ventodisk)

Respir Med. 2001 Oct;95(10):817-21. doi: 10.1053/rmed.2001.1161.


Formoterol fumarate is a beta2-agonist bronchodilator that combines a fast onset of action with a long duration of action. Its fast onset of action is well documented in asthma but has not been directly compared with that of salbutamol in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted to assess the bronchodilatory effects over the first 3 h after inhalation of single doses of formoterol 24 microg delivered via the Aerolizer dry powder inhaler device (double-blind), or salbutamol 400 microg delivered by a Diskhaler dry powder inhaler (single-blind) in patients with COPD. A total of 24 patients with COPD were randomized [mean age 61.6 +/- 7.8 years, mean forced expiratory volume in 1 sec (FEV1) 1.38 +/- 0.32 l and 45.8 +/- 9.6% of predicted]. Inhalation of formoterol or salbutamol resulted in similar increases in FEV from 0 to 3 h post-dose. Both drugs produced similar bronchodilation by 5 min, which became almost maximal by 30 min. The primary efficacy variable, the area under the curve (AUC) of the FEV increase above predose baseline from 0 to 30 min (AUC(0-30 min)), demonstrated significant effects for formoterol (mean 5.89 +/- 4.67 l min(-1)), and salbutamol (mean 6.06 +/- 4.34 l min(-1)), which were not statistically different from each other but statistically significantly higher (P<0.0001) than that observed with placebo (-0.32 +/- 2.59 l min(-1)). In addition, both formoterol and salbutamol produced similar and rapid increases in forced vital capacity (FVC). In summary, this study confirms the rapid onset of action of formoterol and indicates that the onset of action of formoterol and salbutamol are similar in patients with COPD.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aerosols
  • Aged
  • Albuterol / therapeutic use*
  • Area Under Curve
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Ethanolamines / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Formoterol Fumarate
  • Humans
  • Lung / physiopathology*
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / drug therapy*
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Placebos
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Time Factors
  • Vital Capacity


  • Aerosols
  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Ethanolamines
  • Placebos
  • Albuterol
  • Formoterol Fumarate