Symbicort (budesonide and formoterol fumarate dehydrate)

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: December 2023

Symbicort® (budesonide and formoterol fumarate dehydrate) is a medicine that contains multiple drugs for treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This type of medicine is also called combination therapy.1

Symbicort contains budesonide, an inhaled corticosteroid (ICS), and formoterol, a long-acting beta2-adrenergic agonist (LABA).1

Symbicort is a long-term maintenance treatment. It should not be used as a rescue drug for treating sudden breathing problems (usually, medicines such as albuterol are used for this.)1

What are the ingredients in Symbicort?

The active ingredients in Symbicort are budesonide (an ICS) and formoterol fumarate dehydrate (a LABA).1

How does Symbicort work?

COPD can cause symptoms such as increased mucus, wheezing, cough, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.2

Symbicort contains drugs from 2 drug classes: ICS and LABA. ICS drugs work by reducing inflammation and swelling and increasing airflow in the airways. This process reduces the symptoms of COPD. Before prescribing an ICS, your doctor may check for signs of inflammation in your blood.1

LABAs work by stimulating B2 receptors. This process relaxes muscles in the airways, which reduces the symptoms of COPD.1

What are the possible side effects?

The most common side effects of Symbicort include:1

  • Sore throat
  • Thrush in the mouth and throat
  • Bronchitis
  • Sinus infection
  • Upper respiratory tract infection

Call 9-1-1 if your breathing suddenly worsens after taking Symbicort.

These are not all the possible side effects of Symbicort. Talk to your doctor about what to expect when taking Symbicort. You also should call your doctor if you have any changes that concern you when taking Symbicort.

Other things to know

Take Symbicort as directed by your doctor. Before taking Symbicort, tell your doctor if you have:1

  • Problems with your heart, liver, thyroid, or immune system
  • High blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Diabetes
  • Bone thinning (osteoporosis)
  • Any infections
  • Past exposure to chickenpox or measles

Symbicort is a maintenance medicine. That means you use it daily to help prevent asthma and COPD symptoms. It is not intended for sudden relief during an acute attack. For that, you might need a rescue inhaler, such as albuterol.1

Symbicort works best when used regularly, even if you are feeling fine. It helps control inflammation and prevents symptoms from getting worse.1

After each dose of Symbicort, rinse your mouth with water and spit the water out. This helps prevent fungal infections in the mouth and throat, such as thrush.1

There is not enough data to know if Symbicort is safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding. Before taking this drug, tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. They can help you decide if Symbicort is right for you.1

Contact your doctor if you feel like:1

  • The inhaler is not helping as much as it used to
  • You need more puffs of the inhaler
  • Your breathing is worse

Symbicort may interact with other medicines. Tell your doctor if you are on Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) and tricyclic antidepressants because these drugs may interact with Symbicort.

Before beginning treatment for COPD, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you are taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs.1

For more information, read the full prescribing information of Symbicort.

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