Atrovent HFA (ipratropium bromide)

Medically Reviewed By Dena Westphalen, Pharm.D.

About Atrovent HFA

Atrovent HFA is a brand-name prescription medication. It’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in adults.

COPD describes a group of lung conditions that includes emphysema and long-term bronchitis. These conditions reduce airflow to the lungs, causing symptoms of COPD. Examples include shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness.

For details about COPD and how the drug treats it, see the “Atrovent HFA: Uses” section below.

Key points

The following table provides key facts about Atrovent HFA.

Active drug ipratropium bromide
Drug class anticholinergic, which is a type of bronchodilator
Form metered dose inhaler

Finding a healthcare professional

If you’re interested in taking this drug, search here to find a doctor who might prescribe it.

Atrovent HFA: Generic

Atrovent HFA contains the active drug ipratropium bromide. It only comes as a brand-name medication. And it isn’t currently available as a generic drug.

A generic is an identical copy of the active drug found in a brand-name medication. Generics typically cost less than brand-name drugs.

If you’d like to know about the generic version of Atrovent HFA, ask your doctor or pharmacist. They can tell you whether the generic medication comes in forms and strengths recommended for your condition.

Atrovent HFA: Dosage

Below, you’ll find dosages that are commonly recommended for Atrovent HFA. However, you should take the dosage your doctor prescribes for you. They’ll recommend the dosage that’s best for your needs.

Doctors often start by prescribing a low dosage of Atrovent HFA. Then, they’ll change the dosage over time to an amount that’s right for the condition being treated. Doctors typically prescribe the smallest dosage that gives the desired outcome.

The dosage of Atrovent HFA that your doctor prescribes will depend on the severity of the condition you’re taking the drug to treat.

Atrovent HFA’s form and strength

Atrovent HFA comes as follows.

  • Form: metered dose inhaler
  • Strength: 17 micrograms (mcg) per inhalation

Each Atrovent HFA inhaler contains 200 inhalations. The inhaler comes with a built-in dose indicator that tells you how many inhalations remain in the device.

Atrovent HFA’s recommended dosages

Atrovent HFA is approved to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in adults.

Recommended dosages of Atrovent HFA for COPD are described below.

  • Starting dosage: two inhalations four times daily, for a total of eight inhalations daily
  • Maintenance dosage: increased from starting dosage until it improves breathing
  • Maximum dosage: two inhalations six times daily, for a total of twelve inhalations daily

Dosage considerations

Below are some things to consider about Atrovent HFA’s dosage.

  • Missing a dose. The manufacturer of Atrovent HFA hasn’t recommended what to do about a missed dose. If you miss a dose of Atrovent HFA, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They’ll recommend what to do. Try these medication reminder options to help avoid missing doses. You could also set an alarm, use a timer, or download a reminder app on your phone.
  • Length of treatment. Doctors typically prescribe Atrovent HFA as a long-term treatment. You’ll likely take it long term if you and your doctor feel it’s safe and effective for your condition.

Atrovent HFA: Side effects

As with most drugs, it’s possible to have side effects with Atrovent HFA. These can include some mild side effects but also some serious ones.

To learn more about Atrovent HFA’s side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They may also provide information about managing certain side effects of this drug.

Note: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tracks side effects of drugs it has approved. If you would like to notify the FDA about a side effect you’ve had with Atrovent HFA, you can do so through MedWatch.

Mild and serious side effects

Mild and serious side effects of Atrovent HFA are listed below. This article does not include all of Atrovent HFA’s possible side effects.

Mild side effects

Mild side effects* of Atrovent HFA may include:

Most times, mild side effects of a drug go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if any side effects become severe or don’t go away.

* This is not a complete list of Atrovent HFA’s mild side effects. To learn about other mild side effects of this drug, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Or you can view the drug’s prescribing information.
† To learn more about allergic reaction, see below.

Serious side effects

Serious side effects of Atrovent HFA may include:

  • glaucoma (an eye condition caused by fluid buildup in the eye)
  • paradoxical bronchospasm (sudden tightening of the airways after taking a drug, such as Atrovent HFA, which is not expected to have this effect)
  • urinary retention (inability to completely empty your bladder)
  • severe allergic reaction*

Serious side effects from Atrovent HFA aren’t common, but they are possible. If you have serious side effects, call your doctor right away. However, if you’re having a medical emergency or your symptoms feel life threatening, call 911 or your local emergency number.

* To learn more about allergic reaction, see below.

Allergic reaction

As with most drugs, some people can have an allergic reaction after taking Atrovent HFA. A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. However, this side effect was rare in clinical studies of Atrovent HFA.

Possible symptoms of mild and serious allergic reactions are listed in the table below.

Mild allergic reaction symptoms Serious allergic reaction symptoms
flushing swelling under your skin, possibly in your hands, feet, lips, or eyelids
rash swelling in your throat or mouth
itching trouble breathing

If you have an allergic reaction to Atrovent HFA, call your doctor right away. This is important because the reaction could become severe.

However, if you’re having a medical emergency or your symptoms feel life threatening, call 911 or a local emergency number.

Atrovent HFA: Alternatives

Doctors may prescribe drugs other than Atrovent HFA for your condition. Certain drugs may work better for you than others.

Atrovent HFA is used to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Here’s a summary of other drugs that doctors sometimes prescribe for COPD.

Atrovent HFA vs. albuterol and other drugs

To learn more about some alternatives to Atrovent HFA, view the following articles:

Your doctor can tell you about other similar drugs, such as:

For additional information about alternatives to Atrovent HFA, ask your doctor. They can tell you about other medications that could be prescribed for your condition.

Atrovent HFA: Uses

Prescription drugs, such as Atrovent HFA, are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat certain conditions. Doctors sometimes prescribe drugs off-label for other conditions. With off-label use, doctors prescribe a drug for a purpose other than what it’s approved for.

Using Atrovent HFA for COPD

The FDA has approved Atrovent HFA to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in adults.

COPD refers to a group of lung conditions. These include emphysema and long-term bronchitis. COPD reduces airflow to the lungs, which causes symptoms of the condition. Examples of COPD symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing
  • chest tightness
  • long-term wet cough
  • frequent chest infections, such as pneumonia

Doctors prescribe Atrovent HFA as a long-term treatment for COPD.

However, this drug is not approved for the short-term relief of bronchospasm related to COPD. (Bronchospasm refers to a sudden tightening of the airways that can make it hard to breathe.) Instead, doctors may prescribe Atrovent HFA with a rescue inhaler for bronchospasm. To learn more, see “Using Atrovent HFA with other drugs” below.

Using Atrovent HFA with other drugs

Doctors won’t prescribe Atrovent HFA for the short-term relief of bronchospasm related to COPD. (Bronchospasm refers to a sudden tightening of the airways that can make it hard to breathe.)

Instead, doctors may prescribe Atrovent HFA with a rescue inhaler for bronchospasm.

A rescue inhaler is a drug that works quickly to help you regain control of your breathing. Examples include albuterol (ProAir HFA, Proventil HFA, Ventolin HFA) and levalbuterol (Xopenex HFA).

To learn more about using Atrovent HFA with a rescue inhaler, talk with your doctor.

Using Atrovent HFA in children

Doctors typically won’t prescribe Atrovent HFA for use in children. The drug is only approved for use in adults.

Finding a healthcare professional for Atrovent HFA

If you’re interested in using Atrovent HFA, you can find a doctor or healthcare professional who might prescribe it by searching here. You can prepare for your appointment by visiting Healthgrades’ appointment guide for COPD.

Atrovent HFA: Questions you may have

Here are some common questions about Atrovent HFA and brief answers to them. If you’d like to know more about these topics, ask your doctor.

Do doctors prescribe Atrovent HFA for asthma?

Atrovent HFA is not approved to treat asthma. At this time, the drug is only approved to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

In certain situations, doctors may prescribe Atrovent HFA off-label for asthma. With off-label use, doctors prescribe a drug for a purpose other than what it’s approved for.

For example, doctors may prescribe Atrovent HFA for the short-term treatment of asthma in the hospital’s emergency department. However, doctors aren’t likely to prescribe Atrovent HFA for long-term, daily treatment of this condition.

If you have questions about using Atrovent HFA for asthma, talk with your doctor.

Is Atrovent HFA given in 0.5-mg doses?

No, Atrovent HFA is not given in 0.5-milligram (mg) doses.

Atrovent HFA is a metered dose inhaler. Ipratropium bromide (the active drug in Atrovent HFA) also comes as a  liquid solution that’s used with a nebulizer. This form of ipratropium is given in 0.5-mg doses. However, Atrovent HFA is not given in this dose.

To learn more about approved dosages for Atrovent HFA, see “Atrovent HFA: Dosage” above. If you have questions about dosages used with other forms of ipratropium, talk with your doctor.

Does Atrovent HFA treat a cough?

Possibly, if the cough is related to COPD.

Atrovent HFA is used to treat COPD. Among others, one symptom of this condition is a long-term wet cough. Atrovent HFA treats COPD by opening the airways, which increases airflow to the lungs. Having better airflow to the lungs may help ease a cough related to COPD.

If you have questions about Atrovent HFA and cough, talk with your doctor.

Atrovent HFA: How to use

Your doctor will recommend how you should use Atrovent HFA. It’s important to administer the drug exactly as your doctor instructs.

Atrovent HFA is a metered dose inhaler. It comes as a solution inside a canister. The Atrovent HFA device turns the solution into an aerosol, which is inhaled using the device.

Before using Atrovent HFA for the first time, you’ll need to prime (prepare) the inhaler. To prime it, you should spray the inhaler away from your face two times. You should also prime the inhaler if you haven’t used it for at least 3 days.

Your doctor or pharmacist will show you step-by-step instructions on how to use Atrovent HFA. You can also view these written instructions or visit the manufacturer’s website.

Questions about using Atrovent HFA

Here’s a list of common questions related to using Atrovent HFA.

  • When should I administer Atrovent HFA? You’ll likely use Atrovent HFA four times daily. This means you’ll typically use the drug every six hours. However, it is important to follow the instructions provided to you by your doctor. Try these medication reminder options to help avoid missing doses of Atrovent HFA. You could also set an alarm, use a timer, or download a reminder app on your phone.
  • Do I need to administer Atrovent HFA with food? You can use Atrovent HFA with food or without it.
  • Is there a best time of day to administer Atrovent HFA? No, there isn’t a best time of day to use Atrovent HFA. You can use Atrovent HFA any time of day.

Atrovent HFA: How it works

Atrovent HFA is approved to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This condition is caused by inflammation of the airways, which reduces airflow to the lungs. To learn more about COPD, see “Atrovent HFA: Uses” above.

Atrovent HFA belongs to a class of drugs called anticholinergics. Its mechanism of action (the way it works) is to relax and open the airways that lead to the lungs. By opening the airways, Atrovent HFA helps increase airflow to the lungs. And having better airflow to the lungs helps ease the symptoms of COPD.

How long does Atrovent HFA take to start working?

It may take several weeks for your COPD symptoms to ease after starting Atrovent HFA.

Atrovent HFA: Cost

As with other medications, prices of Atrovent HFA may vary. The drug’s price will depend on factors such as:

Cost considerations for Atrovent HFA

Here are some things to consider when looking into the cost of Atrovent HFA.

Option for a 90-day supply. For some drugs, it’s possible to get a 90-day supply. If this option is approved by your insurance company, it can help lower the cost of the drug. It can also help you avoid frequent trips to your pharmacy. If you’d like to learn more about this option, ask your doctor, pharmacist, or insurance company.

Need for prior authorization. Before insurance coverage for Atrovent HFA is approved, your insurance company may require prior authorization. In this case, your doctor and insurance company will communicate about your prescription for Atrovent HFA. Then, the insurance company will decide whether the drug will be covered. To find out whether you need prior authorization for Atrovent HFA, contact your insurance company.

Possible cost assistance options. Financial assistance to help lower the cost of Atrovent HFA is available. You can register on the Atrovent HFA manufacturer’s website to receive savings offers for this drug. To learn more and find out whether you’re eligible for support, visit the manufacturer’s website. Also, check out this article to learn about ways to save on prescription drugs.

Use of a mail-order pharmacy. Atrovent HFA may be dispensed through mail-order pharmacies. Getting your prescription through a mail-order pharmacy could lower its cost. It can also allow you to get the drug without leaving home. To find out more about this option, check with your doctor, pharmacist, or insurance company.

Availability of a generic form. Atrovent HFA doesn’t come in a generic form. A generic drug is an exact copy of the active drug in a brand-name medication. Typically, generics cost less than brand-name drugs.

Atrovent HFA: Consuming alcohol during treatment

Atrovent HFA isn’t known to interact with alcohol. If you drink alcohol, talk with your doctor about an amount that’s safe to consume while using Atrovent HFA.

Atrovent HFA: Interactions

Atrovent HFA may interact with other medications. However, the drug isn’t known to interact with supplements or foods.

Different interactions can cause different effects. Some interactions can interfere with a drug’s effectiveness. Others can increase a drug’s side effects or cause them to be severe.

Before you start Atrovent HFA, be sure to tell your doctor about any medications, herbs, vitamins, or supplements you take. They can check for any possible interactions between these products and Atrovent HFA.

If any of the interactions listed below might pertain to you, talk with your doctor. They can tell you what you need to do to avoid the interaction.

  • Atrovent HFA and other anticholinergic drugs. Anticholinergics are used to treat many conditions. Examples include bladder spasms, frequent urination, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Atrovent HFA also belongs to this drug class. The manufacturer of Atrovent HFA advises that this drug should not be taken with other anticholinergics. Be sure to talk with your doctor if these drugs have been prescribed together for you. Examples include:
  • Atrovent HFA and herbs and supplements. Atrovent HFA isn’t known to interact with any herbs or supplements. If you have questions about taking specific supplements with Atrovent HFA, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Atrovent HFA and foods. There aren’t any known interactions between Atrovent HFA and foods. If you have questions about eating certain foods with Atrovent HFA, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

For information about drug-condition interactions, see the “Atrovent HFA: Precautions” section below.

Atrovent HFA: Using while pregnant

It isn’t known for certain whether Atrovent HFA is safe to use during pregnancy. There haven’t been enough clinical studies of Atrovent HFA in pregnancy to know for sure.

If you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy, talk with your doctor before using Atrovent HFA. They can advise you on the risks and benefits of treatment with Atrovent HFA during pregnancy.

Atrovent HFA and birth control needs

Doctors aren’t sure whether it’s safe to take Atrovent HFA during pregnancy. Talk with your doctor about your birth control needs with Atrovent HFA if you’re sexually active and you or your partner can become pregnant. Your doctor can recommend whether you should use birth control with this medication.

Atrovent HFA: Using while breastfeeding

It isn’t known whether Atrovent HFA passes into breast milk. It also isn’t known whether the drug may cause side effects in a child who is breastfed.

If you’re breastfeeding or planning to do so, talk with your doctor. They can discuss the risks and benefits of using Atrovent HFA while breastfeeding. Your doctor can also advise you on other healthy ways to feed your child while you’re using Atrovent HFA.

Atrovent HFA: Precautions

Tell your doctor about your health history before starting treatment with Atrovent HFA. Your doctor may not recommend this medication if you have certain factors affecting your health or specific medical conditions. These situations are known as drug-condition interactions.

These factors and conditions include those listed below.

  • Closed-angle glaucoma. Before using Atrovent HFA, tell your doctor if you have closed-angle glaucoma. Atrovent HFA may worsen this condition, which could lead to vision loss and severe eye pain. If you have closed-angle glaucoma, your doctor may prescribe a drug other than Atrovent HFA for your condition.  
  • Enlarged prostate. Before using Atrovent HFA, tell your doctor if you have an enlarged prostate. This condition may cause urinary retention (inability to completely empty your bladder), which could be worsened by Atrovent HFA. If you use Atrovent HFA and have an enlarged prostate, tell your doctor right away if you have worsened problems with urination while using the drug.
  • Bladder problems. Before using Atrovent HFA, tell your doctor if you have bladder problems. This includes conditions such as bladder neck obstruction. Atrovent HFA may worsen urinary retention related to any bladder problems you have. If you use Atrovent HFA and have a bladder problem, tell your doctor right away if you have worsened problems with urination while using the drug.
  • Allergic reaction. Your doctor will likely not prescribe Atrovent HFA if you’ve had an allergic reaction to it or any of its ingredients. To find out about other treatment options, talk with your doctor.
  • Pregnancy. If you’d like additional information about taking Atrovent HFA while pregnant, view the “Atrovent HFA: Using while pregnant” section above.
  • Breastfeeding. If you’d like additional information about taking Atrovent HFA while breastfeeding, view the “Atrovent HFA: Using while breastfeeding” section above.

To learn more about effects of Atrovent HFA that could be harmful, see the “Atrovent HFA: Side effects” section above.

Atrovent HFA: Overdose

For some drugs, taking more than the recommended dosage may lead to unwanted side effects or overdose. Do not use more Atrovent HFA than your doctor advises.

What to do if you take too much Atrovent HFA

Call your doctor if you think you’ve used too much of this drug. Also, you can call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 800-222-1222 or use its online tool. However, if your symptoms are severe, call 911 or a local emergency number. Or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

Atrovent HFA: Expiration, storage, and disposal

Here’s some information about Atrovent HFA’s expiration date, as well as how to store and dispose of the drug.

Expiration. Your pharmacist will add an expiration date to the label on Atrovent HFA’s packaging. This date is usually 1 year from the date the medication was dispensed to you. Expiration dates help ensure that a medication is effective during a period of time.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises Trusted Source Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Governmental authority Go to source that you avoid taking expired drugs. If you have an unused medication and it’s past the drug’s expiration date, talk with your pharmacist. They can let you know whether you might still be able to use the medication.

Storage. Many factors determine how long a medication remains good to use. These factors include how and where you store the drug. Store Atrovent HFA at a temperature between 68°F and 77°F (20°C and 25°C). The inhaler can be stored at temperatures between 59°F and 86°F (15°C and 30°C) for a short time, such as while traveling. However, it’s recommended that you allow the inhaler to return to room temperature before you use it.

Disposal. It’s important to safely dispose of Atrovent HFA if you no longer need to take it and have unused medication. Doing so helps prevent others, including children and pets, from accidentally taking the drug. It also helps avoid causing harm to the environment.

Ask your pharmacist for information about disposing of Atrovent HFA. Also, check out this page for several tips on safe medication disposal.

Atrovent HFA: Questions for your doctor

If you have questions about Atrovent HFA, talk with your doctor. They can help advise you on whether Atrovent HFA could be a good treatment option for you.

Here’s a list of questions you may want to ask your doctor:

  • How is Atrovent HFA different from other inhalers that treat my condition?
  • Are there other forms of Atrovent that can be used to treat my condition?
  • How will I know when it’s time to get a refill of my Atrovent HFA inhaler?

Your doctor may also tell you about other treatment options for your condition. You may find this article helpful in learning about alternative drugs. And view our selection of videos on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Disclaimer: Healthgrades has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.


Medical Reviewer: Dena Westphalen, Pharm.D.
Last Review Date: 2022 Sep 30
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.