Sounds like 'for-MOE-ter-ol'

Easy-to-read medicine information about formoterol – what is it, how to use formoterol safely and possible side effects.

Type of medicine Also called
  • Bronchodilator (opens the air passages to the lungs) 
  • Belongs to a group of medicines known as long-acting beta-agonist bronchodilators
  • Eformoterol
  • Oxis®
  • Foradil®

In New Zealand, formoterol is available in 2 dry-powder devices, either as:

  • Oxis turbuhaler®
  • Foradil®  

Both devices are equally effective. The choice of device is personal preference.

What is formoterol?

  • Formoterol is used to improve breathing problems caused by asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary or airway disease.
  • It eases symptoms such as  such wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.
  • Formoterol works by opening air passages in the lungs to make breathing easier.
  • It belongs to the class of drugs known as long-acting beta-agonist bronchodilators.
  • Formoterol may be used together with other medicines called corticosteroids or preventers such as beclomethasone, budesonide or fluticasone


  • The dose of formoterol will be different for different people, and varies depending on whether you are using the Oxis turbuhaler or Foradil and whether it is used for asthma or COPD.
  • Always use your formoterol exactly as your doctor has told you.
  • The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much to use, how often to use it, and any special instructions.
  • Each dose of formoterol will keep your air passages open and relieve chest tightness and wheezing for up to 12 hours. 

How to use your Oxis turbuhaler

  • Formoterol is available as a dry powder in a device called a turbuhaler.
  • The turbuhaler device is breath activated, which means that it releases a dose of the powder, when you breathe in.
  • To get the most benefit from the medication, it is important to use the correct technique when using a turbuhaler.
  • Your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse will explain how to use your turbuhaler - the following steps are a guide:
    • Unscrew and remove the cap.
    • Hold the turbuhaler upright.
    • Twist the grip at the base of the turbuhaler as far as it will go.
    • Twist it back to its original position - listen for the click.
    • Put the mouthpiece to your lips and breathe in steadily through the turbuhaler.
    • Remove the turbuhaler from the mouth.
    • Breathe out slowly through the nose.
  • Discard your Oxis Turbuhaler after 60 doses have been taken. This is indicated by a red mark appearing in a window on the turbuhaler.

How to use Foradil 

  • Foradil contains the active formoterol powder in a capsule form, which is for oral inhalation only. The powder from the capsule is inhaled (breathed into the lungs) using the aerolizer inhalation device provided.
  • Do not swallow the capsules — they must be used by inhaling the contents of the capsule with the aerolizer inhaler.
  • To get the most benefit from the medication, it is important to use the correct technique when using your Foradil aerolizer.
    Your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse will explain how to use your aerolizer - the following steps are a guide:
    • Pull off the cap of the aerolizer inhalation device.
    • Hold the base of the device firmly and open it by turning the mouthpiece.
    • Using dry fingers, take the capsule out of the foil pack immediately before you are going to use it. Place the capsule in the capsule-shaped slot, making sure that it lies flat and on the bottom.
    • Twist the mouthpiece to the closed position.
    • To pierce the capsule, hold the aerolizer upright and firmly squeeze the two blue buttons at the same time and then release. Pierce the capsule only once. If you pierce it more often, the capsule may break and small pieces of gelatin from the capsule shell may be inhaled into your mouth or throat. However the capsule is made of edible gelatin, which is not harmful.
    • While holding the aerolizer in an upright position, open the mouthpiece again and make sure that the capsule is loose in the slot so that when you inhale, the capsule is able to spin around in the circular area above the slot. Close the mouthpiece. Breathe out as far as you can.
    • Place the mouthpiece in your mouth and tilt your head back slightly. Close your lips around the mouthpiece and breathe in quickly but evenly, as deep as you can.
    • Hold your breath for as long as you comfortably can. Take the aerolizer out of your mouth, then breathe out. 
    • After using the aerolizer, take out the empty capsule. Check the aerolizer to see if there is any dry powder remaining in the device. To remove any remaining powder, wipe the mouthpiece and capsule slot with a dry cloth or a clean soft brush.
    • Do not use water to clean the device. Then close the mouthpiece and put the cap on again.

What else do I need to know?

  • Use formoterol every day. Do not stop using formoterol, even if you feel better. 
  • Try to use formoterol at the same times each day, to help you to remember to use it regularly.
  • It is not harmful if you miss a dose of formoterol. If you miss a dose, you can take it as soon as you remember, or if it is nearly time for your next dose, just take your next dose at the right time.

Learn more about inhalers - Asthma Foundation

Possible side effects

Like all medicines formoterol can cause unwanted side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often unwanted effects improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine.

Side effects What should I do?
  • A different taste in your mouth
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • These are quite common when you first start using formoterol, and usually go away with time
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Fast heart rate
  • Feeling nervous, restless, agitated
  • Trembling or shakiness
  • Tell your doctor or pharmacist if troublesome
  • Allergic reaction such as skin rash, itching, swelling of the lips, face, and mouth or difficulty breathing
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine on 0800 611 116 

Learn more

Medsafe Consumer Information Sheets: Foradil   Oxis Turbuhaler

New Zealand Formulary Patient Information: Formoterol

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Carolyn Woolerton, Pharmacist, MedWise, August 2016