Objective: To determine whether prolonged administration of clenbuterol results in tachyphylaxis, specifically regarding its bronchoprotective properties and effect on sweating in horses.
Animals: 8 Thoroughbreds with inflammatory airway disease.
Procedures: In a crossover design, horses received clenbuterol (0.8 μg/kg, p.o., q 12 h) or placebo for 21 days, with a washout period of ≥ 30 days between the 2 treatments. Airway reactivity was evaluated by use of flowmetric plethysmography and histamine broncho-provocation before (day 0; baseline) and every 7 days after the start of treatment. Sweat function was evaluated via response to epinephrine administered ID before and every 10 days after the start of treatment.
Results: The concentration of histamine required to increase total airway obstruction by 35% (PC35) was significantly reduced during treatment with clenbuterol (mean change, 11.5 mg/mL), compared with during administration of the placebo (mean change, -1.56 mg/mL), with a peak effect at 14 days. Tachyphylaxis was evident by day 21, with 7 of 8 horses having a PC35 below the baseline value (mean change, -0.48 mg/mL), which returned to baseline values during the washout period. No effect of clenbuterol was seen in sweat response to epinephrine administration.
Conclusions and clinical relevance: Clenbuterol initially reduced airway sensitivity to inhaled histamine, but tachyphylaxis that resulted in increased airway reactivity was evident by day 21. Although no effects on sweating were detected, the technique may not have been sensitive enough to identify subtle changes. Prolonged administration of clenbuterol likely results in a clinically important reduction in its bronchodilatory effects.