What Are Mucolytic Agents?

Mucus may narrow or block the airways, making it difficult to breath. Mucolytic drugs are designed to help loosen and clear the mucus from the airways by breaking up the sputum. The most common type of mucolytic is a medication called N-acetylcysteine. This medication is available in tablet or inhaled form. The inhaled form is given by a nebulizer. N-acetylcysteine is more commonly used by patients in European countries than in patients in the USA.

What kinds of mucolytic agents are there?
Mucolytic agents come in both tablet form and liquid solution to be taken by mouth or for inhalation. A few examples are listed in the following table.

Listing of mucolytic agents

Generic name Brand name How it is given Dosage
Erdosteine Erdostin Capsules, syrup 300 mg twice daily
Mucotec Capsules, syrup 300 mg twice daily
Acetylcysteine Bronkyl Tablets 200 mg twice daily
Fluimucil Tablets 600 mg daily
Mucomyst Tablets
Liquid solution
200 mg twice daily
Bromheksin Bisolvon Tablets
Liquid solution
8-16 mg, 4 times daily
6-10 mL of 10%, or 3-5 mL of 20% every 6-8 hrs.
Carbocysteine Mucodyne Syrup, capsules 375 mg
Guiafenesin Breonesin capsules 200-300 mg 4 times daily
Guiatuss Tablets
Liquid solution
200-400 mg or
30 mg, 4 times daily
Humibid Tablets
Liquid solution
200-400 mg or
30 mg, 4 times daily
Humibid LA 600 mg
Hytuss Tablets
Liquid solution
200-400 mg or
30 mg, 4 times daily
Robitussin Tablets
Liquid solution
200-400 mg or
30 mg, 4 times daily
Solvipect Liquid solution 200 mg, 3-5 times daily
iodinated glycerol Expigen

What problems (side-effects) should I watch for with mucolytic agents?
The liquid solutions such as mucomyst can cause breathing spasms, nausea and rashes. The tablets can cause nausea and diarrhea.

How often and how much should I take?
The amount prescribed will vary on your need. It is important to discuss the usefulness of dose of the mucolytic agent with your healthcare provider. You may be the best judge of this since you’ll know if the medication is making the mucus easier to cough out or not.

Find out from the pharmacist the type of tablet you are taking. Some tablets must be dissolved before use (bronkyl, mucomyst) while others can be swallowed whole. Likewise, some liquid solutions (mucomyst) must be nebulized in a device, while other liquid solutions can be swallowed in tablet or liquid form (guiafenesin).

What should I do if I forget to take my mucolytic agents?
If you forget to take your mucolytic agent, you may take the medication when you remember and then resume your usual schedule. It is not critical if you miss a dose.

Also see www.goldcopd.com for instructions on various inhaler and spacer/chamber devices and the Canadian lung association website www.lung.ca for more detailed descriptions of many (but not all) of the medications listed here.




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