Medication and Prescription Assistance

DISCLAIMER: Information contained in this website is for informational purposes only and should not replace advice from a physician.

Long-term control medications (also called controllers) help prevent asthma attacks by controlling inflammation in the airways. These medications should be taken every day by people who have signs or symptoms of asthma more than twice a week. Medications include:

  • Inhaled steroids. These medicines keep inflammation (swelling) of the airway lining from starting and reduce the inflammation that already exists.
  • Cromolyn and nedocromil. These medicines block the asthma reaction before it starts.
  • Long acting beta2-agonist medicines. These medicines help keep the airways open. They should be taken in addition to an inhaled steroid. Because they are long acting, they help prevent symptoms at night.
  • Theophylline. This medicine helps keep the airways open. It is long acting and can help prevent symptoms at night.
  • Leukotriene modifiers. These long acting medicines block part of the asthma reaction and help reduce symptoms.

Quick-relief medications provide immediate relief of asthma symptoms and can be used to prevent symptoms if used before exposure to an asthma trigger, such as exercise. Quick-relief medications are also called bronchodilators. Medications include:

  • Beta2-agonist medicines. These medicines quickly relax the muscles that have tightened around the airways.
  • Anticholinergics. These medicines, including Ipratropium, relaxes the muscles that have tightened around the airways, but not as quickly as beta2-agonist medicines do.
  • Systemic corticosteroids. These medicines can speed resolution of airflow obstruction and reduce the rate of relapse.

If quick-relief medications are used more than two or three times a week, daily long-term control medications should be added to the treatment plan.

English and Spanish asthma inhaler demo videos and PDF instructions are available on the CDC website.

Drug companies have programs that offer free or low-cost prescription drugs to uninsured people. Most brand name medications are available through these programs.

For a complete list of prescription assistance programs organized by asthma medication, click here.