Background: Previous research has suggested that cough associated with acute bronchitis is more likely to subside within 7 days when treated with albuterol than with an antibiotic. This study examines the effectiveness of aerosolized albuterol for the treatment of acute bronchitis in patients treated with erythromycin or placebo.
Methods: A double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial of albuterol delivered by metered-dose inhaler (MDI) was conducted in a primary care setting with healthy adult patients who presented with a productive cough of fewer than 30 days' duration. In addition to randomization for albuterol, patients were also randomized to receive erythromycin or placebo. Outcomes were assessed at follow-up after 7 days.
Results: Patients treated with albuterol MDI were less likely to be coughing after 7 days of treatment than were patients using a placebo inhaler (61% still coughing vs 91%, P = .02). When analysis was stratified by cigarette smoking status and the use of erythromycin, the differences observed between albuterol MDI patients and controls persisted.
Conclusions: Albuterol appears to reduce the likelihood that patients with acute bronchitis will be coughing after 7 days following initiation of treatment. This effect appears to be independent of cigarette smoking or the concomitant use of antibiotics.