Systematic (IUPAC) name
(RS)-4-[(4-chlorophenyl)methyl]-2- (1-methylazepan-4-yl)-phthalazin-1-one
Clinical data
Trade names Optivar
AHFS/ monograph
MedlinePlus a603009
Pregnancy cat. C(US)
Legal status Rx Only (US)
Routes intranasal, ocular
Pharmacokinetic data
Bioavailability 40% (intranasal)
Half-life 22 hours
CAS number 58581-89-8 YesY
ATC code R01AC03 R06AX19, S01GX07
PubChem CID 2267
DrugBank APRD00813
ChemSpider 2180 YesY
UNII ZQI909440X YesY
KEGG D07483 YesY
Chemical data
Formula C22H24ClN3O 
Mol. mass 381.898 g/mol
SMILES eMolecules & PubChem
 N(what is this?)  (verify)

Azelastine is a potent, second-generation, selective, histamine antagonist (histamine-H1-receptor antagonist) manufactured by MedaPharma. According to the Allergic Rhinitis and its Impact on Asthma (ARIA) treatment guidelines, intranasal anti-histamines are recommended for the first line therapy of mild intermittent, moderate/severe intermittent and mild persistent rhinitis (new classification system for rhinitis).

The chemical nomenclature of azelastine is (±)-1-(2H)-phthalazinone, 4-[(4-chlorophenyl) methyl]-2-(hexahydro-1-methyl-1H-azepin-4-yl)-monohydrochloride. It is white, almost odorless with a bitter taste.

Azelastine has been formulated both as a nasal spray (0.1% and 0.15% solutions) and as eye drops (0.05% solution). The nasal spray has been approved in over 60 countries and is marketed under various brand names including Allergodil in mainland Europe, Rhinolast in the UK, Astelin/Astepro in the US, and Azep in Australia. The eye drops have been launched in over 30 countries including the UK (Optilast) and the USA (Optivar). The nasal spray and eye drops are available over the counter in some countries.



Azelastine nasal spray is indicated for the local treatment of the symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis and perennial allergic rhinitis, such as rhinorrhea, sneezing and nasal pruritis in adults and children 5 years of age and older.[1][2] In some countries, it is also indicated for the treatment of vasomotor rhinitis in adults and children ≥ 12 years old.[2] Azelastine eyes drops are indicated for the local treatment of seasonal and perennial allergic conjunctivitis.[3][4]


Azelastine nasal spray

Azelastine nasal spray offers both flexibility of dose and dosage. For adults and children ≥ 12 years the recommend dosage is 1 or 2 sprays/nostril twice daily.[1][2] One spray/nostril twice daily is effective and has an improved tolerability profile compared with the two spray regimen in patients with moderate-to-severe seasonal allergic rhinitis.[5] For children aged between 5 and 11 years 1 spray/nostril twice daily is the recommended dosage.[1][2] Because azelastine starts working within 15 minutes,[6] it can be used on an as-needed basis, as and when symptoms arise (on-demand).[7] On-demand use of azelastine nasal spray results in acceptable clinical control of rhinitis symptoms, although it does not significantly reduce allergic inflammation as observed at fixed doses of 0.28 and 0.56 mg/day.[7]

Azelastine eye drops

The usual dosage of azelastine eye drops for adults and children (≥ 4 years) is one drop in each eye twice daily. This can be increased to 4 times daily if necessary.[3][4]

Pharmacokinetics and metabolism

The systemic bioavailability of azelastine is approximately 40% when administered intranasally. Maximum plasma concentrations (Cmax) are observed within 2–3 hours. The elimination half life, steady-state volume of distribution and plasma clearance are 22 h, 14.5 l/kg and 0.5 l/h/kg respectively (based on intravenous and oral administration data). Azelastine is oxidatively metabolized by the cytochrome P450 family into its active metabolite, desmethylazelastine, and two inactive carboxylic acid metabolites. Approximately 75% of an oral dose is excreted in feces. Pharmacokinetics of orally administered azelastine are not affected by age, gender or hepatic impairment.[8]

Mode of action

Azelastine has a triple mode of action:[8]

  1. Anti-histamine effect,
  2. Mast-cell stabilizing effect and
  3. Anti-inflammatory effect.

Azelastine has a rapid onset of action; 15 minutes with the nasal spray[6] and 3 minutes with the eye drops.[9] The effect lasts for 12 hours.[10]

Clinical efficacy

Azelastine nasal spray

The clinical efficacy of azelastine nasal spray has been confirmed for the treatment of allergic, mixed and vasomotor rhinitis.[11] Data from 4364 patients revealed that after 2 weeks sole treatment with azelastine nasal spray 78% of vasomotor rhinitis patients reported some or complete control of the symptom of post-nasal drip and 90% of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis reported some or complete control of their sneezing. Additionally, more than 85% of patients reported improvements in sleeping patterns as well as reduction in impairment of daytime activities.[11] Both doses of azelastine nasal spray currently available (0.1% and 0.15%) have been shown to significantly improve the nasal symptoms associated with seasonal allergic rhinitis.[12]

Azelastine vs oral antihistamines

Azelastine nasal spray has a more rapid onset of action and is more effective than oral antihistamines such as desloratadine[6] or cetirizine [13] in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. It is also effective in those patients who previously failed to respond to oral antihistamine therapy.[14] Azelastine alleviates the symptom of nasal congestion to a greater degree than oral anti-histamines, an important observation since this is a particularly bothersome symptom for many rhinitis sufferers, and second-generation anti-histamines have traditionally shown little decongestant activity.

Azelastine vs intranasal corticosteroids

Azelastine nasal spray has shown comparable efficacy to the intranasal corticosteroid fluticasone propionate in improving patients’ quality of life and rhinitis symptoms[15] and is superior to intranasal budesonide in improving the symptom of rhinorrhea in patients with perennial allergic rhinitis.[16] Additive effects have been reported when azelastine and fluticasone are co-administered.[17] Although azelastine has a weaker anti-inflammatory effect compared to corticosteroids, it has a significantly more rapid onset of action.[18] Intranasal corticosteroids require days or even weeks to produce maximum benefit.[19]

Azelastine vs leukotriene receptor antagonists

A review comparing the efficacy of azelastine and the leukotriene receptor antagonist montelukast in the treatment of perennial allergic rhinitis showed that in terms of the Rhinitis Severity Score, azelastine has the greatest overall benefit in alleviating the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.[16] Azelastine’s effect was greater than montelukast for reduction of rhinorrhea. However, systemic montelukast, as expected, provided better relief for symptoms distant from the nasal cavity such as ocular itching and throat/palate itching.[16]

Azelastine vs other intranasal antihistamines

Azelastine nasal spray (1.12 mg, two sprays twice daily) was more effective than intranasal levocabastine (0.4 mg, two sprays twice daily) at reducing morning and evening nasal symptoms in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis.[20] Global efficacy, as rated by both patients and doctors, also favored azelastine over levocabastine nasal spray. Compared with newer intranasal antihistamines, the effects of azelastine (0.1%) were comparable to those of olopatadine (0.6%) in suppressing nasal symptoms in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis; the mean reductions from baseline in reflective total nasal symptom score was 29.9% for azelastine and 26.8% for olopatadine.[21] Olopatadine is not indicated for the treatment of vasomotor rhinitis. In a nasal allergen provocation model azelastine (0.1%) and olopatadine (0.1%) inhibited the release of lysozyme to a similar degree and at the higher concentration of 0.2%, olopatadine also inhibited histamine and albumin release.[22] However, others have shown that on an equimolar basis, azelastine is a more potent inhibitor of proinflammatory mediator release (interleukin 6 and tryptase) from human mast cells.[23]

Azelastine eye drops

Azelastine eye drops are effective and well-tolerated at a concentration of 0.05% for the treatment of the symptoms of seasonal allergic conjunctivitis, such as itching, lacrimation and conjunctival redness in both adults [24] and children (4–12 years old).[25] The drops start working within 3 minutes, with the effect lasting at least 8–10 hours.[9] Azelastine eye drops in combination with azelastine nasal spray is also safe and effective for the treatment of severe seasonal rhinoconjunctivitis.[26] Twice daily topical azelastine (0.05%) was at least as effective as levocabastine eye drops[27] or the mast cell stabilizing agent sodium cromoglycate (4 times daily)[28] in improving itching and conjunctival redness in allergic conjunctivitis patients, but with a slightly quicker onset of effect.[29] Results from a conjunctival allergen challenge model study reported that both olopatadine (0.1%) and azelastine (0.05%) were significantly more effective than placebo in reducing conjunctival itching.[30]

Safety and tolerability

Azelastine is safe and well-tolerated in both adults and children (≥12 years) with allergic rhinitis.[31][32] Bitter taste, headache, nasal burning and somnolence are the most frequently reported adverse events. US prescribing recommendations warn against the concurrent use of alcohol and/or other central nervous system depressants, but to date there have been no studies to assess the effects of azelastine nasal spray on the CNS in humans. More recent studies[13][33] have shown similar degrees of somnolence (approx. 2%) compared with placebo treatment. The problem of bitter taste may be reduced by correct application of the nasal spray (i.e. slightly tipping the head forward and not inhaling the medication too deeply), or alternatively using the azelastine/sucralose formulation (Astepro).


  1. ^ a b c "Rhinolast Nasal Spray Summary of Product Characteristics". Oct 2009. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Astelin FDA Prescribing Information". Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  3. ^ a b "Optilast Eye Drops Summary of Product Characteristics". Jan 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  4. ^ a b "Optivar Eye Drops FDA Prescribing Information". Jan 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  5. ^ Lumry W, Prenner B, Corren J, Wheeler W (September 2007). "Efficacy and safety of azelastine nasal spray at a dose of 1 spray per nostril twice daily". Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology 99 (3): 267–72. doi:10.1016/S1081-1206(10)60663-1. PMID 17910331. 
  6. ^ a b c Horak F, Zieglmayer UP, Zieglmayer R, et al. (January 2006). "Azelastine nasal spray and desloratadine tablets in pollen-induced seasonal allergic rhinitis: a pharmacodynamic study of onset of action and efficacy". Current Medical Research and Opinion 22 (1): 151–7. doi:10.1185/030079906X80305. PMID 16393441. 
  7. ^ a b Ciprandi G, Ricca V, Passalacqua G, et al. (March 1997). "Seasonal rhinitis and azelastine: long- or short-term treatment?". The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 99 (3): 301–7. doi:10.1016/S0091-6749(97)70046-0. PMID 9058684. 
  8. ^ a b Horak, Friedrich; Zieglmayer, Ursula Petra (2009). "Azelastine nasal spray for the treatment of allergic and nonallergic rhinitis". Expert Review of Clinical Immunology 5 (6): 659–69. doi:10.1586/eci.09.38. PMID 20477689. 
  9. ^ a b Friedlaender MH, Harris J, LaVallee N, Russell H, Shilstone J (December 2000). "Evaluation of the onset and duration of effect of azelastine eye drops (0.05%) versus placebo in patients with allergic conjunctivitis using an allergen challenge model". Ophthalmology 107 (12): 2152–7. doi:10.1016/S0161-6420(00)00349-3. PMID 11097587. 
  10. ^ Greiff L, Andersson M, Svensson C, Persson CG (April 1997). "Topical azelastine has a 12-hour duration of action as assessed by histamine challenge-induced exudation of alpha 2-macroglobulin into human nasal airways". Clinical and Experimental Allergy 27 (4): 438–44. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2222.1997.tb00730.x. PMID 9146938. 
  11. ^ a b Lieberman P, Kaliner MA, Wheeler WJ (April 2005). "Open-label evaluation of azelastine nasal spray in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis and nonallergic vasomotor rhinitis". Current Medical Research and Opinion 21 (4): 611–8. doi:10.1185/030079905X41408. PMID 15899111. 
  12. ^ Shah S, Berger W, Lumry W, La Force C, Wheeler W, Sacks H (2009). "Efficacy and safety of azelastine 0.15% nasal spray and azelastine 0.10% nasal spray in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis". Allergy and Asthma Proceedings 30 (6): 628–33. doi:10.2500/aap.2009.30.3296. PMID 19930788. 
  13. ^ a b Corren J, Storms W, Bernstein J, Berger W, Nayak A, Sacks H (May 2005). "Effectiveness of azelastine nasal spray compared with oral cetirizine in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis". Clinical Therapeutics 27 (5): 543–53. doi:10.1016/j.clinthera.2005.04.012. PMID 15978303. 
  14. ^ LaForce CF, Corren J, Wheeler WJ, Berger WE (August 2004). "Efficacy of azelastine nasal spray in seasonal allergic rhinitis patients who remain symptomatic after treatment with fexofenadine". Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology 93 (2): 154–9. doi:10.1016/S1081-1206(10)61468-8. PMID 15328675. 
  15. ^ Behncke, V; Alemar, G; Kaufman, D; Eidelman, F (2006). "Azelastine Nasal Spray and Fluticasone Nasal Spray in the Treatment of Geriatric Patients with Rhinitis". Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 117 (2): S263. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2005.12.1040. 
  16. ^ a b c Sardana N, Santos C, Lehman E, Craig T (January 2010). "A comparison of intranasal corticosteroid, leukotriene receptor antagonist, and topical antihistamine in reducing symptoms of perennial allergic rhinitis as assessed through the Rhinitis Severity Score". Allergy and Asthma Proceedings 31 (1): 5–9. doi:10.2500/aap.2010.31.3308. PMID 20167140. 
  17. ^ Ratner PH, Hampel F, Van Bavel J, et al. (January 2008). "Combination therapy with azelastine hydrochloride nasal spray and fluticasone propionate nasal spray in the treatment of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis". Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology 100 (1): 74–81. doi:10.1016/S1081-1206(10)60408-5. PMID 18254486. 
  18. ^ Patel P, D'Andrea C, Sacks HJ (2007). "Onset of action of azelastine nasal spray compared with mometasone nasal spray and placebo in subjects with seasonal allergic rhinitis evaluated in an environmental exposure chamber". American Journal of Rhinology 21 (4): 499–503. doi:10.2500/ajr.2007.21.3058. PMID 17882923. 
  19. ^ Al Suleimani YM, Walker MJ (June 2007). "Allergic rhinitis and its pharmacology". Pharmacology & Therapeutics 114 (3): 233–60. doi:10.1016/j.pharmthera.2007.01.012. PMID 17433446. 
  20. ^ Falser N, Wober W, Rahlfs VW, Baehre M (2001). "Comparative efficacy and safety of azelastine and levocabastine nasal sprays in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis". Arzneimittel-Forschung 51 (5): 387–93. PMID 11413739. 
  21. ^ Shah SR, Nayak A, Ratner P, Roland P, Michael Wall G (January 2009). "Effects of olopatadine hydrochloride nasal spray 0.6% in the treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis: a phase III, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, active- and placebo-controlled study in adolescents and adults". Clinical Therapeutics 31 (1): 99–107. doi:10.1016/j.clinthera.2009.01.016. PMID 19243710. 
  22. ^ Pipkorn P, Costantini C, Reynolds C, et al. (July 2008). "The effects of the nasal antihistamines olopatadine and azelastine in nasal allergen provocation". Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology 101 (1): 82–9. doi:10.1016/S1081-1206(10)60839-3. PMID 18681089. 
  23. ^ Kempuraj D, Huang M, Kandere K, et al. (May 2002). "Azelastine is more potent than olopatadine n inhibiting interleukin-6 and tryptase release from human umbilical cord blood-derived cultured mast cells". Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology 88 (5): 501–6. doi:10.1016/S1081-1206(10)62389-7. PMID 12027072. 
  24. ^ Horak F, Berger UE, Menapace R, Toth J, Stübner PU, Marks B (April 1998). "Dose-dependent protection by azelastine eye drops against pollen-induced allergic conjunctivitis. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study". Arzneimittel-Forschung 48 (4): 379–84. PMID 9608880. 
  25. ^ Raymond JE, O'Donnell HL, Tipper SP (October 1998). "Priming reveals attentional modulation of human motion sensitivity". Vision Research 38 (19): 2863–7. doi:10.1016/S0042-6989(98)00145-X. PMID 9797982. 
  26. ^ Duarte C, Baëhre M, Gharakhanian S, Leynadier F (2001). "Treatment of severe seasonal rhinoconjunctivitis by a combination of azelastine nasal spray and eye drops: a double-blind, double-placebo study". Journal of Investigational Allergology & Clinical Immunology 11 (1): 34–40. PMID 11436969. 
  27. ^ Canonica GW, Ciprandi G, Petzold U, Kolb C, Ellers-Lenz B, Hermann R (2003). "Topical azelastine in perennial allergic conjunctivitis". Current Medical Research and Opinion 19 (4): 321–9. doi:10.1185/030079903125001794. PMID 12841925. 
  28. ^ James IG, Campbell LM, Harrison JM, Fell PJ, Ellers-Lenz B, Petzold U (2003). "Comparison of the efficacy and tolerability of topically administered azelastine, sodium cromoglycate and placebo in the treatment of seasonal allergic conjunctivitis and rhino-conjunctivitis". Current Medical Research and Opinion 19 (4): 313–20. doi:10.1185/030079903125001785. PMID 12841924. 
  29. ^ Giede C, Metzenauer P, Petzold U, Ellers-Lenz B (2000). "Comparison of azelastine eye drops with levocabastine eye drops in the treatment of seasonal allergic conjunctivitis". Current Medical Research and Opinion 16 (3): 153–63. PMID 11191004. 
  30. ^ Spangler DL, Bensch G, Berdy GJ (August 2001). "Evaluation of the efficacy of olopatadine hydrochloride 0.1% ophthalmic solution and azelastine hydrochloride 0.05% ophthalmic solution in the conjunctival allergen challenge model". Clinical Therapeutics 23 (8): 1272–80. doi:10.1016/S0149-2918(01)80106-5. PMID 11558863. 
  31. ^ Ratner PH, Findlay SR, Hampel F, van Bavel J, Widlitz MD, Freitag JJ (November 1994). "A double-blind, controlled trial to assess the safety and efficacy of azelastine nasal spray in seasonal allergic rhinitis". The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 94 (5): 818–25. doi:10.1016/0091-6749(94)90148-1. PMID 7963150. 
  32. ^ LaForce C, Dockhorn RJ, Prenner BM, et al. (February 1996). "Safety and efficacy of azelastine nasal spray (Astelin NS) for seasonal allergic rhinitis: a 4-week comparative multicenter trial". Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology 76 (2): 181–8. doi:10.1016/S1081-1206(10)63420-5. PMID 8595539. 
  33. ^ Berger W, Hampel F, Bernstein J, Shah S, Sacks H, Meltzer EO (September 2006). "Impact of azelastine nasal spray on symptoms and quality of life compared with cetirizine oral tablets in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis". Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology 97 (3): 375–81. doi:10.1016/S1081-1206(10)60804-6. PMID 17042145. 

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