What are theophylline agents ("maintenance" or "long-term control") bronchodilators for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?

Theophylline agents include theophylline products and aminophylline products. Theophylline products are Elixophyllin®, Theobid®, Theo-24®, T-phyl®, and Uniphyl®. Aminophylline products are Phyllocontin® and Truphylline®.

What do maintenance bronchodilators do, and how are they supplied?

These products do the following:

  • Prevent and relieve airway spasms
  • Open airways
  • Prevent night-time cough and shortness of breath

What are the potential side effects of maintenance bronchodilators?

Potential side effects include:

Note: The side effects listed are the most common. Always contact your healthcare provider if you have questions about your personal situation.

You should notify your doctor if you smoke, or if you take any of the following medications:

  • Tagamet®
  • Dilantin®
  • Tegretol®
  • Cipro®
  • Erythromycin

How and when are maintenance bronchodilators taken? Are there special instructions?

  • Take with food.
  • Swallow tablets whole; do not chew or crush tablets.
  • If one daily dose is prescribed, do not take before bedtime.
  • Do not use for "quick relief" or as "rescue" medication for sudden symptoms.
  • Continue to take as prescribed, even if your symptoms are under control and you feel better.
  • Blood tests may be performed periodically to check the blood levels of theophylline. This helps assure that you are taking the correct dose.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/05/2017.


  • COPD Foundation. COPD Treatment. Accessed 5/14/2018.
  • Devereux G, Cotton S, Barnes P, et al. Use of low-dose oral theophylline as an adjunct to inhaled corticosteroids in preventing exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial. Trials. 2015;16:267.

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