The pharmacologic approach to airway clearance: mucoactive agents

Paediatr Respir Rev. 2006;7 Suppl 1:S215-9. doi: 10.1016/j.prrv.2006.04.198. Epub 2006 Jun 5.


The term "mucoactive agent" refers to any medication used to improve the clearance of airway secretions. It is not synonymous with the word "mucolytic" as this strictly means a drug that decreases the viscosity of secretions. In many cases, decreased viscosity will adversely affect cough transport. For this reason many of the older mucolytic agents such as acetylcysteine are not effective for the therapy of lung disease and their use is not recommended. I review here the many classes of mucoactive agents and identify a number of medications with great promise for the treatment of chronic airway disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Expectorants / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Mucociliary Clearance / drug effects*
  • Mucus / drug effects
  • Mucus / metabolism*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / metabolism
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Expectorants