Zafirlukast (also known as Accolate, Accoleit, and
Vanticon) is an oral tablet medication used for
maintenance treatment of mild to moderate asthma.
Asthma is difficulty breathing due to narrowing of the
airway passage. Technically, zafirlukast is known as a
leukotriene receptor antagonist (LTRA), the first such
medication marketed in the United States.
LTRAs work by blocking certain powerful chemical substances (known as leukotrienes)
from acting on muscle cells in the lungs, which would cause narrowing and swelling the
airway passages. By blocking the actions of these chemicals, the narrowing and swelling
is greatly reduced. Thus, zafirlukast helps reduce asthma symptoms and the number of
acute asthma attacks. Once an asthma attack has already begun, however, zafirlukast
will not be able to relieve it.
Zafirlukast is usually used twice a day. It is often used together with a steroid inhaler or a
long-acting bronchodilator. A bronchodilator widens the bronchi (small airways connected
to the lungs) to assist breathing. Steroids decrease inflammation, swelling, and mucus
production in the airways, which makes it easier for a person with asthma to breathe.
Importantly, patients should discuss with their doctor the rare but serious side effects that
can occur when zafirlukast is combined with dosage reduction of oral steroids. Zafirlukast
is sold by Astra-Zeneca and is now marketed in over 60 countries.