Salbutamol is a short-acting, selective beta2-adrenergic receptor agonist used in the treatment of asthma and COPD. It is 29 times more selective for beta2 receptors than beta1 receptors giving it higher specificity for pulmonary beta receptors versus beta1-adrenergic receptors located in the heart.
Salbutamol is formulated as a racemic mixture of the R- and S-isomers. The R-isomer has 150 times greater affinity for the beta2-receptor than the S-isomer and the S-isomer has been associated with toxicity. This lead to the development of levalbuterol, the single R-isomer of salbutamol. However, the high cost of levalbuterol compared to salbutamol has deterred wide-spread use of this enantiomerically pure version of the drug.
Salbutamol is generally used for acute episodes of bronchospasm caused by bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis and other chronic bronchopulmonary disorders such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). It is also used prophylactically for exercise-induced asthma.