The paradoxical bronchoconstriction observed with commercially available isotonic ipratropium bromide nebuliser solution (Atrovent) in patients with asthma results from an adverse reaction to the preservatives, benzalkonium chloride and ethylenediaminetetra-acetic acid (EDTA). The airway response to inhaled Atrovent and preservative free ipratropium bromide nebuliser solutions has been examined in a double blind study. On separate occasions 30 asthmatic subjects inhaled 2 ml of the solutions and airway calibre was measured in terms of FEV1 for 45 minutes. Atrovent nebuliser solution provoked a greater than 20% fall in FEV1 in five of the 30 subjects, whereas this did not occur after preservative free ipratropium bromide. Inhalation of the preservative free solution resulted in more rapid and greater overall bronchodilatation than Atrovent, with mean maximum increases in FEV1 of 29.2% and 18.5% respectively. It is concluded that the risk of paradoxical bronchoconstriction with ipratropium bromide is considerably reduced by removal of benzalkonium chloride and EDTA and that preservative free ipratropium bromide is a more potent bronchodilator than the currently available Atrovent solution.
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