Thomas H. Rossing, MD
Asthmatics have used the naturally occurring methylxanthines caffeine and theobromine, which are present in coffee and tea, for hundreds of years to obtain relief from paroxysms of airway obstruction (1). Although these two agents are still commonly used by asthmatics to relieve airway obstruction, theophylline is currently the methylxanthine prescribed most often by physicians (2).
Despite the long use of methylxanthines, we still do not know their mechanism of action. Until recently they were believed to act by inhibiting the enzyme phosphodiesterase, thus resulting in intracellular accumulation of cyclic adenosine monophosphate, which promotes relaxation of bronchial smooth muscle. We now
Rossing TH. Methylxanthines in 1989. Ann Intern Med. ;110:502–504. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-110-7-502
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 1989;110(7):502-504.
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