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The days of Aminophyline

Had a follow up appt with my pulmonologist, Dr. Lazarus yesterday. Among other things, we were talking about why my asthma is so bad. I jokingly blurred out…. it’s was because I was a victim of the 1970’s asthma mentality, where they were into over-treatment and under-treatment, but never prevention. It was a time in asthma history where patients were treated with toxic amounts of certain drugs . I told him about this doctor I saw a few times in the early 80’s , who used to overdose me on aminophylline injections. He gave me so much of the drug one time ,that my heart went into a weird fast rhythm and I had to go the hospital. When they checked my blood level, my theophyline level was 30. That’s about 8 times higher than it should have been. Aminophylline is basically a powerful stimulant that works as a bronchodialator, but is usually given slowly through an IV or in pill form. It was a popular asthma medication in the 60s, 70’s and 80’s and still is in the UK .

Anyways, at the end of my appt, Dr Lazarus tells me to check out this clip from the late 1970’s he found on Youtube called ” Aminophylline”. He wouldn’t tell me what it was about, but just that I should watch it when I get a chance.

So I get home, I look up the video on Youtube and watch it. Imagine having you asthma cured with a simple injection. But wait !.. theres more to this story. Try to watch the entire clip if you can.

Now that you’ve seen the video, here’s the really weird part, you know that “doctor” I mentioned earlier in the day? He’s the doctor in the video….Dr. Robbins! Those aminophyline injections that his patients claimed cured them, did nothing for me except make me nauseated and tachycardic all the time.
But, here’s the funny part….. You know that “other” doctor they show in the clip? Thats Dr Lazurus! ( 35 years ago) who has been my lung doctor at UCSF now for 6 years. That would explain why he wanted me to see this video. How funny is that!

(As a side note, Methylzanthines (aminophyline), are still used to treat asthma and COPD today, but not as often or widespread, and certainly not in toxic high doses like it was in the 1970’s).


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4 thoughts on “The days of Aminophyline

  1. Gee, so incredibly interesting. I love the way you guys in the US say AZZma!!!!

    You and I have had this discussion before, and you probably know that I am going to spout forth that the simple fact that I am on Aminophylline is basically the wonder drug that keeps me breathing. Yes, here in the UK it is widely used-I hardly know a severe asthmatic who is not on oral Aminophylline. Although I am on a reasonably low dose (225mg BD of Phyllocontin, an extended release Amino tablet)-I have a therapeutic level of around 12. My Docs aim for 10-15 mcg/ml. Anything below 10 may not have the desired bronchodilatory effects but still has some anti-inflammatory ones.

    Yes, it is an extremely toxic drug. And yes some-including I react very badly when the levels are too high. I have to avoid caffeine, chargrilled BBQ foods, coke, chocolate etc-as I can become rather tachycardic/toxic/vomit sick very easily.

    The worst case of toxicity I ever had was from an admission where I was overloaded with the stuff and ended up with a level of 21. Think the worst hangover times 1000!

    Because of this-Aminophylline CANNOT be given as a home infusion or routine injection like that Dr Jacobs was doing. It also burns the veins as it goes in. Many people react as much to the burning as they do to the toxicity of the drug. His 125mg shot is more than a 10th of the average 24 hourly dose, given usually by slow infusion.

    Xanthines are old fashioned-as you’ve said they’ve been round since the 60s-but Aminophylline is a much better tolerated form of Theophylline. I remember my 1st experiences with Theo, and do not care to repeat those side effects.

    Anyway, discussion/board hijacking/soapboxing over-what an amazingly interesting video clip. Good old Youtube! And how amazing to see your Dr Lazarus too!

    Off to pop my morning dose now!

    Sus xx

  2. Has anyone ever heard of the ejection of Sussrine (sp?)?I was given that all the time in the 70’s and 80s but no one has heard of it. I’m almost positive it’s aminophyline. It sure did hurt!

    1. Yes, Susphrine is a long acting epinphrine that was popular up until the 90’s and us still used to today . I believe it was epi mixed with an oil base . The injection stung like crazy.

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