The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a new warning about a medication that has been used for years and it has sent shock waves throughout my specialty. Terbutaline is an FDA approved medication that is used for asthmatic patients or patients who have significant narrowing of the airways. However for years it has been used as an “off-label” medication to treat preterm labor but now that’s about to change. An off-label drug means it hasn’t been approved for that specific use by the FDA.
According to the FDA, the injectable form of Terbutaline should only be used for a maximum of 24 to 72 hours because the drugs association with heart problems and death. The FDA goes on to say that the oral version (pills) should not be prescribed to treat preterm labor because it’s ineffective and can cause similar problems. As an obstetrician, I feel utterly betrayed. The medication clearly had side effects that included shortness of breath and a racing heart. As resident physicians we were taught that the benefit outweighed the risks of having a premature baby and the patients should try to adjust to the medication. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*