Epinephrine improves expiratory flow rates in patients with asthma who do not respond to inhaled metaproterenol sulfate

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1989 Jul;84(1):90-8. doi: 10.1016/0091-6749(89)90182-6.


One hundred patients with acute asthma and peak expiratory flow rates (PEFR) less than 150 L/min were randomized and treated in a double-blind treatment protocol with either metaproterenol sulfate aerosol (MPA) inhalation and placebo injection or epinephrine injection (EPI) and inhaled placebo at entry and at 30 and 60 minutes, and then were treated with the crossover comparison regimen at 120, 150, and 180 minutes. The two groups had similar entry PEFRs and FEV1 (MPA, 112 L/min; 0.94 L, respectively; EPI, 111 L/min; 0.85 L, respectively) and similar plasma theophylline levels (MPA, 12.2 micrograms/ml; EPI, 13.8 micrograms/ml). PEFR and FEV1 were measured every 30 minutes for 4 hours. Mean expiratory flow rates among both groups were similar at entry and at 120 and 240 minutes. At 120 minutes, flow rates had improved in 28/46 MPA-treated patients (61%) and 48/54 EPI-treated patients (89%). Among these improved patients, flow rates were significantly higher in the MPA-treated group. At 120 minutes, 18/46 MPA-treated patients (39%) and 6/54 EPI-treated patients (11%) had PEFRs less than 120 L/min and PEFR and FEV1 less than 120% of baseline values (p less than 0.01). In 13 of these 18 MPA-treated patients who did not improve compared to 1/6 EPI-treated patients who did not improve, PEFRs were greater than 120 L/min, and PEFR and FEV1 had increased 20% or more above baseline values after treatment with the crossover comparison regimen (p less than 0.02).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adult
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Epinephrine / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Male
  • Metaproterenol / pharmacology*
  • Peak Expiratory Flow Rate
  • Random Allocation
  • Time Factors


  • Metaproterenol
  • Epinephrine