Primatene is an over-the-counter medication used to treat asthma. Ephedrine, one of the main ingredients in Primatene, is sometimes used to boost weight loss. While ephedrine has potential as a weight loss aid, it can also cause serious side effects like high blood pressure and seizure. To prevent adverse health effects, don’t use Primatene for purposes other than those listed on the label.
Ephedrine and guaifenesen are the two active ingredients in Primatene tablets. According to the Primatene website, ephedrine serves as a bronchodilator while guaifenesen acts as an expectorant, helping loosen phlegm to make coughs more productive. Each tablet contains 12.5 mg. ephedrine and 200 mg. guaifenesen, as well as inactive ingredients like magnesium stearate and microcrystalline cellulose.
Ephedrine is a stimulant that occurs naturally in the Ephedra sinica plant. It was once available over the counter as a weight loss aid, though its use is more tightly regulated today. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality states that ephedrine may boost weight loss by 2 pounds per month. Ephedrine works by increasing levels of neurotransmitters that help regulate appetite and metabolism. While Primatene contains ephedrine, it is not intended for weight loss and may be dangerous if abused for this purpose.
When taken as directed, Primatene is not likely to cause life-threatening side effects. Like other stimulants, ephedrine can increase blood pressure and heart rate to dangerous levels. In severe instances, heart attack or stroke could occur. Other side effects may include nervousness, rapid heartbeat, seizure, tremor and insomnia. Taking Primatene in the high doses needed for weight loss increases these risks. Primatene may cause dangerous interactions with other drugs and supplements, including monoamine oxidase inhibitors, blood pressure medications and other stimulants.
To prevent serious side effects, don’t take Primatene unless you’ve been diagnosed with asthma. Avoid combining Primatene with other stimulants like caffeine, as this increases the risk for side effects. Ask a doctor before taking Primatene if you suffer from a heart or thyroid condition, diabetes or high blood pressure. Until you know how Primatene affects you, don't drive or other potentially dangerous tasks. Seek medical help immediately if you experience severe headache, chest pain or other troubling side effects while taking Primatene. Before taking Primatene, read safety information on the label and don't exceed the daily recommended dose.