Terbutaline is used to treat bronchospasm associated with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis. It works by relaxing the muscles in the airways and improving breathing. Doctors have also prescribed Terbutaline to treat preterm labor. This drug was manufactured by Impax Laboratories Inc. and was approved by the FDA in 1994.

The “off-label” use of using Terbutaline to prevent preterm labor is not approved by the FDA and has been seen to cause serious side effects in the fetus and for the mother. In a study conducted at Duke University, using Terbutaline to stop labor was seen to cause brain damage and cognitive deficits in the baby. It is estimated that more than 1 million women were treated annually with Terbutaline for preterm labor.

In 2011, a black box warning was added to the Terbutaline label that warned against this drug use for pregnant women. It stated that this drug could cause serious heart problems and death in the mother. Some symtpoms that this drug has caused are irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, lowered blood calcium and potassium, liver toxicity, severe low blood pressure, increased blood sugar, and seizures. The dose of the drug also can be dangerous and a higher dose of Terbutaline has been seen to increase the risk of these side effects.

Serious side effects may include:

  • An allergic reaction(difficulty breathing; closing of the throat; swelling of the lips, tongue, or face; or hives)
  • Chest pain or irregular heartbeat

Less serious side effects may include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Insomnia
  • Tremor or nervousness
  • Sweating
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
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