Field of Science

Better Breathing Through Chemistry

Dr. Andy has posted about the marketing of an asthma control assessment by Glaxo-Smith-Kline (who not coincidently markets Advair as a treatment for asthma). I haven't seen any of the commercials, but I fairly sure my 8 year old has. He showed up in the kitchen last week and asked if he should take a test about his asthma and take it to his doctor. His asthma is mild and well controlled and I simply reminded him that if he had questions about it, he could ask at his next check-up. I wondered where he got the idea about the test, and since I don't watch TV, it took Dr. Andy's blog to point me in the right direction. The marketing is effective.

Last night sleep here was interrupted, in fact, by an asthma attack. Things resolved well using albuterol, but at 3 am I couldn't help wondering what I would have done 100 years ago, besides worry. Turns out inhalation devices for the treatment of asthma have been around since the 19th century at least. See examples here. Albuterol, a β-agonist, dates to the 1970s and is the most commonly used inhaled agent in its class in the United States. On the molecular level, it activates the β-2 receptor on the muscles surrounding the airways, relaxing them. It is fast acting, which was certainly a benefit last night. The structure is relatively simple.

The molecule is chiral and albuterol is marketed both as a single stereoisomer and (most commonly) as the racemic mixture.

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