Aminophylline (Phyllocontin Continus)

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Aminophylline helps relieve symptoms such as cough, wheeze and shortness of breath.

You will be prescribed two doses of aminophylline each day - take them 12 hours apart.

Swallow the tablets whole - do not crush or chew them.

If you are a smoker or drink alcohol, ask your doctor for advice, as these can affect the amount of the medicine in your blood.

Type of medicineXanthine bronchodilator
Used forLung-related problems such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); sometimes used to treat heart failure
Also calledPhyllocontin Continus®
Available asModified-release tablets and injection

Aminophylline is an oral bronchodilator medicine which is prescribed for people with breathing problems, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is a medicine that you take by mouth as a tablet. It is also available as an injection, but this is usually given in a hospital environment. Aminophylline is actually a mixture of a medicine called theophylline, and ethylenediamine. The ethylenediamine is used to improve how well the active medicine, theophylline, dissolves.

This medicine works by opening up the air passages in your lungs so that air can flow into your lungs more freely. This makes breathing easier and helps relieve symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking aminophylline it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
  • If you have a heart condition or liver problems.
  • If you have an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).
  • If you have high blood pressure.
  • If you have a stomach ulcer.
  • If you drink alcohol, or smoke.
  • If you have epilepsy.
  • If you are currently unwell with a high temperature.
  • If you have a rare inherited blood disorder called porphyria.
  • If you have been told you have low levels of potassium in your blood.
  • If you are taking or using any other medicines or inhalers. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, as well as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • Before starting this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. The leaflet will give you more information about aminophylline and a full list of side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
  • Aminophylline is taken twice a day, in the morning and evening. Always try to take your doses 12 hours apart and at the same times each day. For example, at 8 am and 8 pm each day. You can take the tablets before or after meals.
  • Swallow the tablets whole with a drink of water. Do not chew, break, or crush them.
  • There are two different strengths of tablet available, and you will be asked to take either one or two tablets for each of your doses. Your dose may be adjusted over the first few weeks depending on the results of some blood tests. The tests allow your doctor to make sure that you have the dose that helps your condition, but avoids any unwanted symptoms.
  • Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you what strength of tablet is right for you and how many tablets to take for each dose. Your dose will also be on the label of the pack to remind you.
  • If you forget to take a dose but it is still within four hours of the time you should have taken it, take a dose as soon as you remember. If it is more than four hours since you should have taken it, do not take the missed dose but do remember to take your next dose when it is due. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
  • Continue to take aminophylline unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Bronchodilators like aminophylline are usually prescribed long-term.
  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can review your condition on a regular basis. Your doctor will want to test your blood from time to time to make sure that you are receiving the correct dose and also to check the levels of potassium in your blood.
  • The amount of aminophylline in your blood should be kept within a certain range. It can vary if you are unwell, or if you start or stop smoking, take other medicines, or if you drink more alcohol than usual. This is because these things interfere with the way aminophylline is handled by your body. Some of these things will increase the amount of medicine in your body, leading to side-effects. Others will reduce it, leading to your treatment not being as effective as it should be.
  • If at any time you find that your symptoms are getting worse, contact a doctor or nurse for advice straightaway.
  • If you want to buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe for you to take. Some medicines (including the herbal remedy St John's wort) can affect the levels of aminophylline in your blood and should not be taken alongside it without your doctor knowing.
  • Some vaccines, such as the flu vaccine, may also affect aminophylline levels. Make sure you tell your doctor about any vaccinations you have.
  • If you are due to have an operation or any dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking, as some anaesthetics can interfere with aminophylline.
  • Aminophylline can be very toxic in overdose. If you suspect that someone has taken more than they should (and especially if it is a child), go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital straightaway. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with aminophylline. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common aminophylline side-effectsWhat can I do if I experience this?
Feeling sick, upset stomachStick to simple foods - avoid rich or spicy meals. Try taking your doses after meals
HeadacheAsk your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller. If the headache continues, speak with your doctor
A fast heartbeat, difficulty sleeping, feeling shaky or restless, being sick (vomiting)If these symptoms continue or are severe, speak with your doctor or pharmacist, they could be a sign your dose is too high
Itchy rashThis may be a sign of an allergic reaction - let your doctor know about this

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital at once. Take the container with you, even if it is empty, so the doctor knows what has been taken.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Mr Michael Stewart
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Adrian Bonsall
Document ID:
28635 (v2)
Last Checked:
28/09/2016
Next Review:
28/09/2019
The Information Standard - certified member

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