Think the impossible: beta-blockers for treating asthma

Clin Sci (Lond). 2009 Oct 12;118(2):115-20. doi: 10.1042/CS20090398.


Asthma was originally thought to be associated with an intrinsic defect in beta2ADR (beta2-adrenoceptor) function, tipping the balance towards parasympathetic bronchoconstriction. Hence beta-blocking drugs (such as beta2ADR antagonists and inverse agonists) may cause acute bronchoconstriction which, in turn, may be attenuated by anti-cholinergic agents. Although beta2-agonists are highly effective for the acute relief of bronchoconstriction, their chronic use is accompanied by an adaptive reduction in beta2ADR numbers and associated desensitization of response, resulting in increased exacerbations and rare cases of death. The hypothesis examined in the present article is that, while single dosing with a beta-blocker may cause acute bronchoconstriction, chronic dosing may afford putative beneficial effects including attenuated airway hyperresponsiveness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / adverse effects
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / adverse effects
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Bronchoconstriction / drug effects
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Heart Failure / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Mice


  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents