Breo Vs. Symbicort: What Is The Difference?

In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses the difference between two inhalers, Breo and Symbicort.

Apr 07, 2018

JT w asked

What is the difference between Breo and Symbicort? Breo inflamed my throat so badly I had to stop using it after 2 days. I am very sensitive to many medications. This is the first time when I've gotten bronchitis that an antibiotic and rescue inhaler has not taken care of the situation. I am still using rescue inhaler once a day maybe twice to get the mucus build-up and wheezing from my chest. Also please tell me about Qvar, maybe that would work.


Breo Ellipta (Fluticasone and Vilanterol) and Symbicort (Budesonide and Formoterol) are both inhalers used in the treatment of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  Both inhalers contain two types of medications, a long-acting beta agonist used to relax the bronchial smooth muscle and a corticosteroid to prevent or control inflammation.

Qvar (Beclomethasone) is an inhaler used in the treatment of asthma.  Qvar only contains a corticosteroid that helps to prevent or control inflammation.  

Difference Between Breo And Symbicort

While Breo Ellipta (Fluticasone and Vilanterol) and Symbicort (Budesonide and Formoterol) both contain the same types of drugs, a long-acting beta agonist and a corticosteroid, these two medications do differ in their dosing.

 Breo Ellipta (Fluticasone and Vilanterol) is dosed once daily and Symbicort (Budesonide and Formoterol) is dosed twice daily.  It is common for patients to sometimes prefer one drug over another that are in the same therapeutic class.

Many times, this preference can be due to the difference in side effects experienced, cost, ease of use or differences in dosing. In this case, using Symbicort (Budesonide and Formoterol) instead of Breo Ellipta (Fluticasone and Vilanterol) would pose no issue in achieving the intended therapeutic effect, better asthma or COPD symptom control.  


Since Qvar (Beclomethasone) is only an inhaled corticosteroid used to treat inflammation, it may not give the patient full asthma symptom control.  It does not contain a long acting beta agonist like Breo Ellipta and Symbicort.  This means that a patient may not have enough relaxation of bronchial smooth muscle to make breathing easier.  It would then most likely be necessary for a patient to use a rescue inhaler more often if control is not being achieved by the inhaled corticosteroid alone.  

Additional Information

Since you have had bronchitis and viral infections recently, it is time to contact your doctor or other health care provider if you are not getting adequate control of your asthma or COPD symptoms.

Some patients may need additional treatment, like oral corticosteroids, to get them back to their baseline.  Also, the doctor will most likely check to make sure your bronchitis has been resolved and has not moved further into the lungs, which can result in pneumonia.  


Both Breo Ellipta (Fluticasone and Vilanterol) and Symbicort (Budesonide and Formoterol) are inhalers that contain the same types of drugs, a long acting beta agonist and a corticosteroid.  One can be used instead of the other without any expected difference in results occurring. Qvar (Beclomethasone) is an inhaler that contains only a corticosteroid. It may or may not be adequate to control a patient's asthma symptoms on its own.

If adequate control is not being meet with Breo Ellipta or Symbicort, then it is time to check back in with your doctor for reassessment of your current treatment.  

Ready for a more personal experience with your meds?