Theophylline, a drug that has been used for several decades, has several different actions at a cellular level, including inhibition of phosphodiesterase isoenzymes, antagonism of adenosine, enhancement of catecholamine secretion, and modulation of calcium fluxes. Recently, theophylline was found to have several immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties, and thus interest in its use in patients with asthma has been renewed. The use of theophylline in the treatment of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease has diminished with the advent of new medications, but theophylline remains beneficial, especially in the patient with difficult refractory symptoms. In the future, theophylline may be used as treatment for bradyarrhythmias after cardiac transplantation, prophylactic medication to reduce the severity of nephropathy associated with intravenous administration of contrast material, therapy for breathing problems during sleep, and treatment for leukemias.
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