Also called terbutaline

Key points about Bricanyl

  • Bricanyl is used to treat cough, wheeze and difficulty breathing caused by asthma and COPD.
  • Bricanyl is also called terbutaline.
  • Find out how to take it safely and possible side effects.
blue unaunahi tile generic
Print this page

Bricanyl is used to treat cough, wheeze and difficulty breathing caused by respiratory problems such as asthma and COPD. It works by opening air passages in the lungs to make breathing easier. Bricanyl is called a ‘reliever’ medicine because it quickly relieves your breathing problems. It starts to work within a few minutes and the effect will last between 3 to 5 hours.

Image: Relievers Asthma Canada

Using an inhaler device enables the medicine to go straight into your airways when you breathe in. This means that your airways and lungs are treated, but very little of the medicine gets into the rest of your body. 

  • The usual dose of Bricanyl is 1 or 2 inhalations when needed for shortness of breath or wheezing. If you have severe breathing problems you may use up to 6 inhalations at a time. 
  • You should not use more than 24 inhalations in any 24 hour period.
  • If you're taking more than one inhalation at a time, wait about 2 or 3 minutes between them.   
  • Follow your doctor's instructions carefully. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much to use, how often to use it and any special instructions.


  • Keep your inhaler with you at all times: Make sure you have your inhaler with you at all times so you know where it is when you need it and make sure you have enough Bricanyl to last through weekends and holidays.
  • Storage: You can carry your inhaler in your pocket but it needs to be stored below 25º C, so don't keep it in your car during summer.
Do you need a preventer?
If you need to use Bricanyl several times each week, talk to your doctor. You may need a ‘preventer’ inhaler, or the dose of your preventer inhaler may need to be increased. Preventers help reduce asthma symptoms and breathing problems. Read more about preventers.

To get the most benefit, it is important to use the correct technique. Ask your doctor, pharmacist or nurse to explain how to use your inhaler. Even if you have been shown before, ask them to show you again if you still have any questions. Here is some guidance.

(Healthify He Puna Waiora, NZ & Auckland District Health Board, 2018)

Using your turbuhaler

  • Open: unscrew and remove the cap. Hold the turbuhaler upright.
  • Load the dose: twist the base anticlockwise and then back in the other direction until you hear a click. Your turbuhaler is now loaded with one dose of medicine
  • Breathe out: breathe out, away from the turbuhaler. Do not blow directly into the turbuhaler.
  • Inhale your dose: place the mouth piece in your mouth and form a seal with your lips. Breathe in deeply. Remove the turbuhaler and hold your breath for up to 10 seconds.
  • Close: replace the cap and twist until it is on properly.

Cleaning and storing your turbuhaler: wipe the mouthpiece with a clean dry tissue. Do not wash the mouthpiece or allow it to get wet when cleaning. Keep the cap on when not in use. The device may clog if exhaled or dribbled into or if stored in an area of high humidity with the cap off or unsealed.

When to start a new turbuhaler: there is a window under the mouthpiece on the outside of the turbuhaler called a dose indicator window. When it turns red it is time to get a new turbuhaler. 

Here are some things to know when you're on Bricanyl. Other things may be important as well, so ask your healthcare provider what you should know about.

  • Other medicines: terbutaline interacts with some medications, herbal supplements and rongoā Māori, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting terbutaline and before starting any new products.

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

Side effects What should I do?
  • Feeling shaky
  • Nervousness
  • Tremor
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps
  • Problems sleeping
  • These are quite common when you first start using Bricanyl and usually go away with time.
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome.
  • Changes in your heartbeat (faster)
  • Chest pain
  • Tell your doctor immediately or phone HealthLine 0800 611 116.
  • Sudden worsening of breathing problems and you are using Bricanyl very often
  • Tell your doctor immediately or phone HealthLine 0800 611 116.
Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product(external link)

Terbutaline(external link) New Zealand Formulary Patient Information
Bricanyl(external link) Medsafe Consumer Information Sheet


5 questions to ask about your medications(external link) Health Quality and Safety Commission, NZ, 2019 English(external link), te reo Māori(external link)


  1. Terbutaline sulfate (inhalation)(external link) New Zealand Formulary

Free helplines

Healthline logo

Text 1737 Helpline logo

Logo with link to Māori Pharmacists website

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist, Healthify He Puna Waiora. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland

Last reviewed:

Page last updated: