Mucolytics / Mucoactive Drugs

Everyone naturally produces mucus. However, in inflammatory lung conditions part of the body’s response to inflammation is to produce more mucus which can become thicker, stickier and therefore more difficult to clear effectively. Accumulation of mucus can cause coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and an increased risk of infection.

Mucolytic drugs act by altering and breaking the bonds that hold mucus together reducing thickness and making it easier to move and cough up.  They may have some effects on reducing the amount of mucus that is produced and anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects.

If mucolytic drugs are used correctly and are effective, this may also reduce the risk of infection. This medication can be taken as a capsule or liquid.

Side effects are minimal but as with all drugs, may cause gastro-intestinal upset or bleeding and may cause skin rash.

Drug name:

  • Carbocisteine.
  • Acetylcisteine (Nacsys).

Patients with COPD who have had 3 or more infections in the past 12 months should have it added to their medication for a trial period.

Long term use may be associated with lower exacerbation rates and a better quality of life.