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All about: Elixophylline

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Generic Name: theophylline, anhydrous
Dosage Form: Elixir

Rx Only

Elixophylline Description

Theophylline is structurally classified as a methylxanthine. It occurs as a white, odorless, crystalline powder with a bitter taste. Anhydrous theophylline has the chemical name 1H-Purine- 2,6-dione, 3,7-dihydro-1,3 -dimethyl-, and is represented by the following structural formula:

The molecular formula of anhydrous theophylline is C7H8N4O2 with a molecular weight of 180.17.

ELIXOPHYLLIN Elixir is available as a liquid intended for oral administration, containing 80 mg of theophylline anhydrous and 20% alcohol in each 15 mL (tablespoonful).

ELIXOPHYLLIN Elixir also contains the following inactive ingredients: citric acid, FD&C Red #40, glycerin, saccharin sodium, imitation tutti frutti fruit flavor and purified water. ELIXOPHYLLIN Elixir has a pH of 3.0 - 4.0.

Elixophylline - Clinical Pharmacology

Mechanism of Action:

Theophylline has two distinct actions in the airways of patients with reversible obstruction; smooth muscle relaxation (i.e., bronchodilation) and suppression of the response of the airways to stimuli (i.e., non-bronchodilator prophylactic effects). While the mechanisms of action of theophylline are not known with certainty, studies in animals suggest that bronchodilatation is mediated by the inhibition of two isozymes of phosphodiesterase (PDE III and, to a lesser extent, PDE IV) while non-bronchodilator prophylactic actions are probably mediated through one or more different molecular mechanisms, that do not involve inhibition of PDE III or antagonism of adenosine receptors. Some of the adverse effects associated with theophylline appear to be mediated by inhibition of PDE III (e.g., hypotension, tachycardia, headache, and emesis) and adenosine receptor antagonism (e.g., alterations in cerebral blood flow).

Theophylline increases the force of contraction of diaphragmatic muscles. This action appears to be due to enhancement of calcium uptake through an adenosine-mediated channel.

Serum Concentration-Effect Relationship:

Bronchodilation occurs over the serum theophylline concentration range of 5-20 mcg/mL. Clinically important improvement in symptom control has been found in most studies to require peak serum theophylline concentrations >10 mcg/mL, but patients with mild disease may benefit from lower concentrations. At serum theophylline concentrations >20mcg/mL, both the frequency and severity of adverse reactions increase. In general, maintaining peak serum theophylline concentrations between 10 and 15 mcg/mL will achieve most of the drug's potential therapeutic benefit while minimizing the risk of serious adverse events.


Overview Theophylline is rapidly and completely absorbed after oral administration in solution or immediate-release solid oral dosage form. Theophylline does not undergo any appreciable pre-systemic elimination, distributes freely into fat-free tissues and is extensively metabolized in the liver.

The pharmacokinetics of theophylline vary widely among similar patients and cannot be predicted by age, sex, body weight or other demographic characteristics. In addition, certain concurrent illnesses and alterations in normal physiology (see Table I) and co-administration of other drugs (see Table II) can significantly alter the pharmacokinetic characteristics of theophylline. Within-subject variability in metabolism has also been reported in some studies, especially in acutely ill patients. It is, therefore, recommended that serum theophylline concentrations be measured frequently in acutely ill patients (e.g., at 24-hour intervals) and periodically in patients receiving long-term therapy, e.g., at 6-12 month intervals. More frequent measurements should be made in the presence of any condition that may significantly alter theophylline clearance (see PRECAUTIONS, Laboratory tests).

Table I. Mean and range of total body clearance and half-life of theophylline related to age and altered physiological states.¶
Total body clearance* Half-life
mean (range)†† mean (range)††
Population characteristics (mL/kg/min) (hr)

¶ For various North American patient populations from literature reports. Different rates of elimination and consequent dosage requirements have been observed among other peoples.

* Clearance represents the volume of blood completely cleared of theophylline by the liver in one minute. Values listed were generally determined at serum theophylline concentrations <20 mcg/mL; clearance may decrease and half-life may increase at higher serum concentrations due to non-linear pharmacokinetics.

†† Reported range or estimated range (mean ±2 SD) where actual range not reported.

† NR = not reported or not reported in a comparable format.

** Median

Note: In addition to the factors listed above, theophylline clearance is increased and half-life decreased by low carbohydrate/high protein diets, parenteral nutrition, and daily consumption of charcoal-broiled beef. A high carbohydrate/low protein diet can decrease the clearance and prolong the half-life of theophylline.

Premature neonates
postnatal age 3-15 days 0.29 (0.09-0.49) 30(17-43)
postnatal age 25-57 days 0.64 (0.04-1.2) 20 (9.4-30.6)

Term infants
postnatal age 1-2 days NR† 25.7 (25-26.5)
postnatal age 3-30 weeks NR† 11 (6-29)

1-4 years 1.7 (0.5-2.9) 3.4 (1.2-5.6)
4-12 years 1.6 (0.8-2.4) NR†
13-15 years 0.9 (0.48-1.3) NR†
16-17 years 1.4 (0.2-2.6) 3.7 (1.5-5.9)

Adults (16-60 years)
otherwise healthy
non-smoking asthmatics 0.65 (0.27-1.03) 8.7 (6.1-12.8)

Elderly (>60 years)
non-smokers with normal cardiac,
liver, and renal function 0.41 (0.21-0.61) 9.8 (1.6-18)

Concurrent illness or
altered physiological state

Acute pulmonary edema
0.33** (0.07-2.45) 19** (3.1-82)
COPD - >60 years, stable
non-smoker >1 year 0.54 (0.44-0.64) 11 (9.4-12.6)

COPD with cor pulmonale
0.48 (0.08-0.88) NR†
Cystic fibrosis (14-28 years) 1.25 (0.31-2.2) 6.0(1.8-10.2)

Fever associated with acute viral respiratory
illness (children 9-15 years) NR† 7.0 (1.0-13)

Liver disease - cirrhosis
0.31** (0.1-0.7) 32** (10-56)
acute hepatitis 0.35 (0.25-0.45) 19.2 (16.6-21.8)
cholestasis 0.65 (0.25-1.45) 14.4 (5.7-31.8)

Pregnancy - 1st trimester
NR† 8.5 (3.1-13.9)
2nd trimester NR† 8.8 (3.8-13.8)
3rd trimester NR† 13.0 (8.4-17.6)

Sepsis with multi-organ failure
0.47 (0.19-1.9) 18.8 (6.3-24.1)

Thyroid disease - hypothyroid
0.38 (0.13-0.57) 11.6 (8.2-25)
hyperthyroid 0.8 (0.68-0.97) 4.5 (3.7-5.6)

Absorption  Theophylline is rapidly and completely absorbed after oral administration in solution or immediate-release solid oral dosage form. After a single dose of 5 mg/kg in adults, a mean peak serum concentration of about 10 mcg/mL (range 5-15 mcg/mL) can be expected 1-2 hr after the dose. Co-administration of theophylline with food or antacids does not cause clinically significant changes in the absorption of theophylline from immediate-release dosage forms.

Distribution  Once theophylline enters the systemic circulation, about 40% is bound to plasma protein, primarily albumin. Unbound theophylline distributes throughout body water, but distributes poorly into body fat. The apparent volume of distribution of theophylline is approximately 0.45 L/kg (range 0.3-0.7 L/kg) based on ideal body weight. Theophylline passes freely across the placenta, into breast milk and into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Saliva theophylline concentrations approximate unbound serum concentrations, but are not reliable for routine or therapeutic monitoring unless special techniques are used. An increase in the volume of distribution of theophylline, primarily due to reduction in plasma protein binding, occurs in premature neonates, patients with hepatic cirrhosis, uncorrected acidemia, the elderly and in women during the third trimester of pregnancy. In such cases, the patient may show signs of toxicity at total (bound + unbound) serum concentrations of theophylline in the therapeutic range (10-20 mcg/mL) due to elevated concentrations of the pharmacologically active unbound drug. Similarly, a patient with decreased theophylline binding may have a subtherapeutic total drug concentration while the pharmacologically active unbound concentration is in the therapeutic range. If only total serum theophylline concentration is measured, this may lead to an unnecessary and potentially dangerous dose increase. In patients with reduced protein binding, measurement of unbound serum theophylline concentration provides a more reliable means of dosage adjustment than measurement of total serum theophylline concentration. Generally, concentrations of unbound theophylline should be maintained in the range of 6-12 mcg/mL.

Metabolism  Following oral dosing, theophylline does not undergo any measurable first-pass elimination. In adults and children beyond one year of age, approximately 90% of the dose is metabolized in the liver. Biotransformation takes place through demethylation to 1-methylxanthine and 3-methylxanthine and hydroxylation to 1,3-dimethyluric acid. 1-methylxanthine is further hydroxylated, by xanthine oxidase, to 1-methyluric acid. About 6% of a theophylline dose is N-methylated to caffeine. Theophylline demethylation to 3-methylxanthine is catalyzed by cytochrome P-450 1A2, while cytochromes P-450 2E1 and P-450 3A3 catalyze the hydroxylation to 1,3-dimethyluric acid. Demethylation to 1-methylxanthine appears to be catalyzed either by cytochrome P-450 1A2 or a closely related cytochrome. In neonates, the N-demethylation pathway is absent while the function of the hydroxylation pathway is markedly deficient. The activity of these pathways slowly increases to maximal levels by one year of age.

Caffeine and 3-methylxanthine are the only theophylline metabolites with pharmacologic activity. 3-methylxanthine has approximately one tenth the pharmacologic activity of theophylline and serum concentrations in adults with normal renal function are <1 mcg/mL. In patients with end-stage renal disease, 3-methylxanthine may accumulate to concentrations that approximate the unmetabolized theophylline concentration. Caffeine concentrations are usually undetectable in adults regardless of renal function. In neonates, caffeine may accumulate to concentrations that approximate the unmetabolized theophylline concentration and thus, exert a pharmacologic effect.

Both the N-demethylation and hydroxylation pathways of theophylline biotransformation are capacity-limited. Due to the wide intersubject variability of the rate of theophylline metabolism, non-linearity of elimination may begin in some patients at serum theophylline concentrations <10 mcg/mL. Since this non-linearity results in more than proportional changes in serum theophylline concentrations with changes in dose, it is advisable to make increases or decreases in dose in small increments in order to achieve desired changes in serum theophylline concentrations (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, Table VI). Accurate prediction of dose-dependency of theophylline metabolism in patients a priori is not possible, but patients with very high initial clearance rates (i.e., low steady state serum theophylline concentrations at above average doses) have the greatest likelihood of experiencing large changes in serum theophylline concentration in response to dosage changes.

Excretion  In neonates, approximately 50% of the theophylline dose is excreted unchanged in the urine. Beyond the first three months of life, approximately 10% of the theophylline dose is excreted unchanged in the urine. The remainder is excreted in the urine mainly as 1,3-dimethyluric acid (35-40%), 1-methyluric acid (20-25%) and 3-methylxanthine (15-20%). Since little theophylline is excreted unchanged in the urine and since active metabolites of theophylline (i.e., caffeine, 3-methylxanthine) do not accumulate to clinically significant levels even in the face of end-stage renal disease, no dosage adjustment for renal insufficiency is necessary in adults and children >3 months of age. In contrast, the large fraction of the theophylline dose excreted in the urine as unchanged theophylline and caffeine in neonates requires careful attention to dose reduction and frequent monitoring of serum theophylline concentrations in neonates with reduced renal function (See WARNINGS).

Serum Concentrations at Steady State  After multiple doses of theophylline, steady state is reached in 30-65 hours (average 40 hours) in adults. At steady state, on a dosage regimen with 6-hour intervals, the expected mean trough concentration is approximately 60% of the mean peak concentration, assuming a mean theophylline half-life of 8 hours. The difference between peak and trough concentrations is larger in patients with more rapid theophylline clearance. In patients with high theophylline clearance and half-lives of about 4-5 hours, such as children age 1 to 9 years, the trough serum theophylline concentration may be only 30% of peak with a 6-hour dosing interval. In these patients a slow release formulation would allow a longer dosing interval (8-12 hours) with a smaller peak/trough difference.

Special Populations

(See Table I for mean clearance and half-life values)

Geriatric  The clearance of theophylline is decreased by an average of 30% in healthy elderly adults (> 60 yrs) compared to healthy young adults. Careful attention to dose reduction and frequent monitoring of serum theophylline concentrations are required in elderly patients (see WARNINGS).

Pediatrics  The clearance of theophylline is very low in neonates (see WARNINGS). Theophylline clearance reaches maximal values by one year of age, remains relatively constant until about 9 years of age and then slowly decreases by approximately 50% to adult values at about age 16. Renal excretion of unchanged theophylline in neonates amounts to about 50% of the dose, compared to about 10% in children older than three months and in adults. Careful attention to dosage selection and monitoring of serum theophylline concentrations are required in pediatric patients (see WARNINGS and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).

Gender  Gender differences in theophylline clearance are relatively small and unlikely to be of clinical significance. Significant reduction in theophylline clearance, however, has been reported in women on the 20th day of the menstrual cycle and during the third trimester of pregnancy.

Race  Pharmacokinetic differences in theophylline clearance due to race have not been studied.

Renal Insufficiency  Only a small fraction, e.g., about 10%, of the administered theophylline dose is excreted unchanged in the urine of children greater than three months of age and adults. Since little theophylline is excreted unchanged in the urine and since active metabolites of theophylline (i.e., caffeine, 3-methylxanthine) do not accumulate to clinically significant levels even in the face of end-stage renal disease, no dosage adjustment for renal insufficiency is necessary in adults and children >3 months of age. In contrast, approximately 50% of the administered theophylline dose is excreted unchanged in the urine in neonates. Careful attention to dose reduction and frequent monitoring of serum theophylline concentrations are required in neonates with decreased renal function (see WARNINGS).

Hepatic Insufficiency  Theophylline clearance is decreased by 50% or more in patients with hepatic insufficiency (e.g., cirrhosis, acute hepatitis, cholestasis). Careful attention to dose reduction and frequent monitoring of serum theophylline concentrations are required in patients with reduced hepatic function (see WARNINGS).

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)  Theophylline clearance is decreased by 50% or more in patients with CHF. The extent of reduction in theophylline clearance in patients with CHF appears to be directly correlated to the severity of the cardiac disease. Since theophylline clearance is independent of liver blood flow, the reduction in clearance appears to be due to impaired hepatocyte function rather than reduced perfusion. Careful attention to dose reduction and frequent monitoring of serum theophylline concentrations are required in patients with CHF (see WARNINGS).

Smokers  Tobacco and marijuana smoking appears to increase the clearance of theophylline by induction of metabolic pathways. Theophylline clearance has been shown to increase by approximately 50% in young adult tobacco smokers and by approximately 80% in elderly tobacco smokers compared to non-smoking subjects. Passive smoke exposure has also been shown to increase theophylline clearance by up to 50%. Abstinence from tobacco smoking for one week causes a reduction of approximately 40% in theophylline clearance. Careful attention to dose reduction and frequent monitoring of serum theophylline concentrations are required in patients who stop smoking (see WARNINGS). Use of nicotine gum has been shown to have no effect on theophylline clearance.

Fever  Fever, regardless of its underlying cause, can decrease the clearance of theophylline. The magnitude and duration of the fever appear to be directly correlated to the degree of decrease of theophylline clearance. Precise data are lacking, but a temperature of 39oC (102oF) for at least 24 hours is probably required to produce a clinically significant increase in serum theophylline concentrations. Children with rapid rates of theophylline clearance (i.e., those who require a dose that is substantially larger than average [e.g., >22 mg/kg/day] to achieve a therapeutic peak serum theophylline concentration when afebrile) may be at greater risk of toxic effects from decreased clearance during sustained fever. Careful attention to dose reduction and frequent monitoring of serum theophylline concentrations are required in patients with sustained fever (see WARNINGS).


Other factors associated with decreased theophylline clearance include the third trimester of pregnancy, sepsis with multiple organ failure, and hypothyroidism. Careful attention to dose reduction and frequent monitoring of serum theophylline concentrations are required in patients with any of these conditions (see WARNINGS). Other factors associated with increased theophylline clearance include hyperthyroidism and cystic fibrosis.

Clinical Studies:

In patients with chronic asthma, including patients with severe asthma requiring inhaled corticosteroids or alternate-day oral corticosteroids, many clinical studies have shown that theophylline decreases the frequency and severity of symptoms, including nocturnal exacerbations, and decreases the “as needed” use of inhaled beta-2 agonists. Theophylline has also been shown to reduce the need for short courses of daily oral prednisone to relieve exacerbations of airway obstruction that are unresponsive to bronchodilators in asthmatics.

In patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), clinical studies have shown that theophylline decreases dyspnea, air trapping, the work of breathing, and improves contractility of diaphragmatic muscles with little or no improvement in pulmonary function measurements.

Indications and Usage for Elixophylline

Theophylline is indicated for the treatment of the symptoms and reversible airflow obstruction associated with chronic asthma and other chronic lung diseases, e.g., emphysema and chronic bronchitis.


ELIXOPHYLLIN Elixir is contraindicated in patients with a history of hypersensitivity to theophylline or other components in the product.


Concurrent Illness:

Theophylline should be used with extreme caution in patients with the following clinical conditions due to the increased risk of exacerbation of the concurrent condition:

Active peptic ulcer disease
Seizure disorders
Cardiac arrhythmias (not including bradyarrhythmias)

Conditions That Reduce Theophylline Clearance:

There are several readily identifiable causes of reduced theophylline clearance. If the total daily dose is not appropriately reduced in the presence of these risk factors, severe and potentially fatal theophylline toxicity can occur. Careful consideration must be given to the benefits and risks of theophylline use and the need for more intensive motoring of serum theophylline concentrations in patients with the following risk factors:


Neonates (term and premature)
Children <1 year
Elderly (>60 years)

Concurrent Diseases

Acute pulmonary edema
Congestive heart failure
Cor pulmonale
Fever; ≥102°F for 24 hours or more; or lesser temperature elevations for longer periods
Liver disease; cirrhosis, acute hepatitis
Reduced renal function in infants <3 months of age
Sepsis with multi-organ failure

Cessation of Smoking

Drug Interactions Adding a drug that inhibits theophylline metabolism (e.g., cimetidine, erythromycin, tacrine) or stopping a concurrently administered drug that enhances theophylline metabolism (e.g., carbamazepine, rifampin). (see PRECAUTIONS, Drug Interactions, Table II).

When Signs or Symptoms of Theophylline Toxicity Are Present:

Whenever a patient receiving theophylline develops nausea or vomiting, particularly repetitive vomiting, or other signs or symptoms consistent with theophylline toxicity (even if another cause may be suspected), additional doses of theophylline should be withheld and a serum theophylline concentration measured immediately. Patients should be instructed not to continue any dosage that causes adverse effects and to withhold subsequent doses until the symptoms have resolved, at which time the clinician may instruct the patient to resume the drug at a lower dosage (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, Dosing Guidelines, Table VI).

Dosage Increases:

Increases in the dose of theophylline should not be made in response to an acute exacerbation of symptoms of chronic lung disease since theophylline provides little added benefit to inhaled beta2-selective agonists and systemically administered corticosteroids in this circumstance and increases the risk of adverse effects. A peak steady state serum theophylline concentration should be measured before increasing the dose in response to persistent chronic symptoms to ascertain whether an increase in dose is safe. Before increasing the theophylline dose on the basis of a low serum concentration, the clinician should consider whether the blood sample was obtained at an appropriate time in relationship to the dose and whether the patient has adhered to the prescribed regimen (see PRECAUTIONS, Laboratory Tests).

As the rate of theophylline clearance may be dose-dependent (i.e., steady-state serum concentrations may increase disproportionately to the increase in dose), an increase in dose based upon a sub-therapeutic serum concentration measurement should be conservative. In general, limiting dose increases to about 25% of the previous total daily dose will reduce the risk of unintended excessive increases in serum theophylline concentration (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, Table VI).



Careful consideration of the various interacting drugs and physiologic conditions that can alter theophylline clearance and require dosage adjustment should occur prior to initiation of theophylline therapy, prior to increases in theophylline dose, and during follow up (see WARNINGS). The dose of theophylline selected for initiation of therapy should be low and, if tolerated, increased slowly over a period of a week or longer with the final dose guided by monitoring serum theophylline concentrations and the patient's clinical response (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, Table V).

Monitoring Serum Theophylline Concentrations:

Serum theophylline concentration measurements are readily available and should be used to determine whether the dosage is appropriate. Specifically, the serum theophylline concentration should be measured as follows:

  1. When initiating therapy to guide final dosage adjustment after titration.
  2. Before making a dose increase to determine whether the serum concentration is sub-therapeutic in a patient who continues to be symptomatic.
  3. Whenever signs or symptoms of theophylline toxicity are present.
  4. Whenever there is a new illness, worsening of a chronic illness or a change in the patient's treatment regimen that may alter theophylline clearance (e.g., fever >102°F sustained for ≥24 hours, hepatitis, or drugs listed in Table II are added or discontinued).

To guide a dose increase, the blood sample should be obtained at the time of the expected peak serum theophylline concentration; 1-2 hours after a dose at steady-state. For most patients, steady-state will be reached after 3 days of dosing when no doses have been missed, no extra doses have been added, and none of the doses have been taken at unequal intervals. A trough concentration (i.e., at the end of the dosing interval) provides no additional useful information and may lead to an inappropriate dose increase since the peak serum theophylline concentration can be two or more times greater than the trough concentration with an immediate-release formulation. If the serum sample is drawn more than two hours after the dose, the results must be interpreted with caution since the concentration may not be reflective of the peak concentration. In contrast, when signs or symptoms of theophylline toxicity are present, the serum sample should be obtained as soon as possible, analyzed immediately, and the result reported to the clinician without delay. In patients in whom decreased serum protein binding is suspected (e.g., cirrhosis, women during the third trimester of pregnancy), the concentration of unbound theophylline should be measured and the dosage adjusted to achieve an unbound concentration of 6-12 mcg/mL.

Saliva concentrations of theophylline cannot be used reliably to adjust dosage without special techniques.

Effects on Laboratory Tests:

As a result of its pharmacological effects, theophylline at serum concentrations within the 10-20 mcg/mL range modestly increases plasma glucose (from a mean of 88 mg% to 98 mg%), uric acid (from a mean of 4 mg/dl to 6 mg/dl), free fatty acids (from a mean of 451 μeq/l to 800 μeq/l), total cholesterol (from a mean of 140 vs 160 mg/dl), HDL (from a mean of 36 to 50 mg/dl), HDL/LDL ratio (from a mean of 0.5 to 0.7), and urinary free cortisol excretion (from a mean of 44 to 63 mcg/24 hr). Theophylline at serum concentrations within the 10-20 mcg/mL range may also transiently decrease serum concentrations of triiodothyronine (144 before, 131 after one week and 142 ng/dl after 4 weeks of theophylline). The clinical importance of these changes should be weighed against the potential therapeutic benefit of theophylline in individual patients.

Information for Patients:

The patient (or parent/care giver) should be instructed to seek medical advice whenever nausea, vomiting, persistent headache, insomnia or rapid heart beat occurs during treatment with theophylline, even if another cause is suspected. The patient should be instructed to contact their clinician if they develop a new illness, especially if accompanied by a persistent fever, if they experience worsening of a chronic illness, if they start or stop smoking cigarettes or marijuana, or if another clinician adds a new medication or discontinues a previously prescribed medication. Patients should be instructed to inform all clinicians involved in their care that they are taking theophylline, especially when a medication is being added or deleted from their treatment. Patients should be instructed to not alter the dose, timing of the dose, or frequency of administration without first consulting their clinician. If a dose is missed, the patient should be instructed to take the next dose at the usually scheduled time and to not attempt to make up for the missed dose.

Drug Interactions:

Theophylline interacts with a wide variety of drugs. The interaction may be pharmacodynamic, i.e., alterations in the therapeutic response to theophylline or another drug or occurrence of adverse effects without a change in serum theophylline concentration. More frequently, however, the interaction is pharmacokinetic, i.e., the rate of theophylline clearance is altered by another drug resulting in increased or decreased serum theophylline concentrations. Theophylline only rarely alters the pharmacokinetics of other drugs.

The drugs listed in Table II have the potential to produce clinically significant pharmacodynamic or pharmacokinetic interactions with theophylline. The information in the “Effect” column of Table II assumes that the interacting drug is being added to a steady-state theophylline regimen. If theophylline is being initiated in a patient who is already taking a drug that inhibits theophylline clearance (e.g., cimetidine, erythromycin), the dose of theophylline required to achieve a therapeutic serum theophylline concentration will be smaller. Conversely, if theophylline is being initiated in a patient who is already taking a drug that enhances theophylline clearance (e.g., rifampin), the dose of theophylline required to achieve a therapeutic serum theophylline concentration will be larger. Discontinuation of a concomitant drug that increases theophylline clearance will result in accumulation of theophylline to potentially toxic levels, unless the theophylline dose is appropriately reduced. Discontinuation of a concomitant drug that inhibits theophylline clearance will result in decreased serum theophylline concentrations, unless the theophylline dose is appropriately increased.

The drugs listed in Table III have either been documented not to interact with theophylline or do not produce a clinically significant interaction (i.e., <15% change in theophylline clearance).

The listing of drugs in Table II and III are current as of February 9, 1995. New interactions are continuously being reported for theophylline, especially with new chemical entities. The clinician should not assume that a drug does not interact with theophylline if it is not listed in Table II. Before addition of a newly available drug in a patient receiving theophylline, the package insert of the new drug and/or the medical literature should be consulted to determine if an interaction between the new drug and theophylline has been reported.

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Table II. Clinically significant drug interactions with theophylline*.
Drug Type of Interaction Effect**

* Refer to PRECAUTIONS, Drug Interactions for further information regarding table.

** Average effect on steady state theophylline concentration or other clinical effect forpharmacologic interactions. Individual patients may experience larger changes in serum theophylline concentration than the value listed.

Adenosine Theophylline blocks Higher doses of adenosine
adenosine receptors. may be required to achieve
desired effect.
Alcohol A single large dose of alcohol 30% increase
(3 ml/kg of whiskey) decreases
theophylline clearance for up
to 24 hours
Allopurinol Decreases theophylline clearance 25% increase at allopurinol
doses ≥600 mg/day.
Amino glutethimide Increases theophylline clearance 25% decrease
by induction of microsomal enzyme
Carbamazepine Similar to aminoglutethimide 30% decrease
Cimetidine Decreases theophylline clearance 70% increase
by inhibiting cytochrome P450 1A2.
Ciprofloxacin Similar to cimetidine. 40% increase
Clarithromycin Similar to erythromycin. 25% increase
Diazepam Benzodiazepines increase CNS Larger diazepam doses
concentrations of adenosine, a potent may be required to
CNS depressant, while theophylline produce desired level of
blocks adenosine receptors. sedation. Discontinuation
of theophylline without
reduction of diazepam
dose may result in
respiratory depression.
Disulfiram Decreases theophylline clearance 50% increase
by inhibiting hydroxylation and
Enoxacin Similar to cimetidine. 300% increase
Ephedrine Synergistic CNS effects. Increased frequency of
nausea, nervousness,
and insomnia.
Erythromycin Erythromycin metabolite decreases 35% increase.
theophylline clearance by inhibiting Erythromycin steady-state
cytochrome P450 3A3 serum concentrations
decrease by a similar amount.
Estrogen Estrogen containing oral contraceptives decrease theophylline 30% increase
clearance in a dose-dependent fashion.
The effect of progesterone on theophylline
clearance is unknown.
Flurazepam Similar to diazepam. Similar to diazepam.
Fluvoxamine Similar to cimetidine. Similar to cimetidine.
Halothane Halothane sensitizes the Increased risk of ventricular
myocardium to catecholamines, arrhythmias
theophylline increases release of
endogenous catecholamines.
Interferon, human Decreases theophylline clearance. 100% increase
recombinant alpha-A
Isoproterenol (IV) Increases theophylline clearance. 20% decrease
Ketamine Pharmacologic May lower theophylline