HomeDrug ClassesMethylxanthines

Methylxanthines: Uses, Common Brands, and Safety Info

"Methylxanthines, derived from xanthine, are a drug class that affects the central nervous system and smooth muscle. They have been used for respiratory conditions like asthma but have declined in use. Common brands include caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine. Caution should be exercised due to potential side effects and interactions with other medications."


Methylxanthines are a class of drugs that primarily affect the central nervous system and smooth muscle. They are derived from xanthine and include substances such as caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine. Methylxanthines have been used for various therapeutic purposes, but their use has declined over the years due to the availability of more effective alternatives.


Methylxanthines have traditionally been used as bronchodilators to treat respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Theophylline, one of the most common methylxanthines, works by relaxing the smooth muscles in the airways, making it easier to breathe. However, due to the development of newer and safer medications, methylxanthines are now considered second or third-line treatment options for these conditions. In addition to their respiratory effects, methylxanthines also have stimulant properties. They can increase alertness, decrease fatigue, and improve cognitive performance. Caffeine, found in many beverages and medications, is the most widely used methylxanthine for its stimulant effects.

Common Brands

Some common brands of methylxanthines include: - Theophylline: Theo-Dur, Uniphyl - Caffeine: Anacin, Excedrin, NoDoz - Theobromine: Cocoa, chocolate products It is important to note that while caffeine is widely available without a prescription, theophylline is a prescription-only medication.


Methylxanthines do have potential side effects and can interact with other medications. It is important to follow the recommended dosage and consult with a healthcare professional before using methylxanthines, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions or take other medications. Side effects of methylxanthines may include gastrointestinal issues (such as stomach upset or acid reflux), increased heart rate, tremors, and insomnia. These side effects are generally mild and temporary, but individuals may react differently to these medications. Certain individuals should exercise caution or avoid methylxanthines altogether. For example, those with a history of heart conditions, high blood pressure, peptic ulcers, or anxiety disorders may be more susceptible to adverse effects. Additionally, pregnant or breastfeeding women are often advised to limit their caffeine intake due to its potential effects on the developing fetus or nursing baby. In conclusion, methylxanthines are a class of drugs primarily used as bronchodilators for respiratory conditions, but their use has declined with the availability of newer alternatives. They also have stimulant properties and can be found in various over-the-counter and prescription medications. However, caution should be exercised when using methylxanthines, and it is always best to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate usage and dosage.