Mucoactive drugs

Eur Respir Rev. 2010 Jun;19(116):127-33. doi: 10.1183/09059180.00003510.


Mucus hypersecretion is a clinical feature of severe respiratory diseases such as asthma, cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Airway mucosal infection and/or inflammation associated with these diseases often gives rise to inflammatory products, including neutrophil-derived DNA and filamentous actin, in addition to bacteria, apoptotic cells and cellular debris, that may collectively increase mucus production and viscosity. Mucoactive agents have been the medication of choice for the treatment of respiratory diseases in which mucus hypersecretion is a clinical complication. The main purpose of mucoactive drugs is to increase the ability to expectorate sputum and/or decrease mucus hypersecretion. Many mucoactive drugs are currently available and can be classified according to their putative mechanism of action. Mucoactive medications include expectorants, mucoregulators, mucolytics and mucokinetics. By developing our understanding of the specific effects of mucoactive agents, we may result in improved therapeutic use of these drugs. The present review provides a summary of the most clinically relevant mucoactive drugs in addition to their potential mechanism of action.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Expectorants / chemistry
  • Expectorants / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Mucus / metabolism*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / metabolism*


  • Expectorants