Pulmozyme (Dornase Alfa) - Inhalation

What Is Pulmozyme?

Pulmozyme (dornase alfa) is an inhaled prescription medication used with other therapies to improve breathing and reduce the risk of lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis.

Pulmozyme is a biologic medication that belongs to a drug class known as mucolytic enzymes. Mucolytic drugs work to dissolve or break up mucus, a ​​clear, thick secretion made by the membranes that line some areas of the body, such as the nose, mouth, and throat. Specifically, dornase alfa is an enzyme that cuts apart long strands of DNA in mucus. This helps thins out the mucus, making it easier to clear from the airways.

Pulmozyme is an inhaled medication administered using a medical device called a nebulizer.

Drug Facts

Generic Name: Dornase alfa

Brand Name(s): Pulmozyme

Drug Availability: Prescription

Administration Route: Inhalation

Therapeutic Classification: Mucolytic

Available Generically: No

Controlled Substance: N/A

Active Ingredient: Dornase alfa

Dosage Form(s): Solution for inhalation

What Is Pulmozyme Used For?

Pulmozyme is used with other therapies to improve lung function in adults and children with cystic fibrosis.

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that causes your body to produce thick, sticky mucus. This mucus can build up and lead to infections or damage the lungs, digestive tract, and other organs. Pulmozyme works by thinning mucus, which helps improve breathing and reduce the risk of lung infections.

How to Take Pulmozyme

Pulmozyme is an inhalation solution that comes in single-dose ampules. Each ampule contains 2.5 milligrams (mg) of dornase alfa in 2.5 milliliters (mL) of clear liquid solution.

Pulmozyme is inhaled using a nebulizer device. This medication should be used with the eRapid Nebulizer System or a jet nebulizer with an air compressor. Children unable to breathe in or out through their mouth for an entire dose may use the Pari Baby Nebulizer.

To use, pour the contents of one ampule into the nebulizer chamber. You’ll need to follow your nebulizer’s directions for proper use and maintenance. You should discard any solution that remains in the nebulizer chamber after you complete your dose. You should not dilute Pulmozyme or mix it with other nebulizer medications such as albuterol.

Storage

Store Pulmozyme in the refrigerator (36 F to 46 F). Keep unused ampules in the original foil pouch. If you need to transport or travel with Pulmozyme, the drug may be kept at room temperature for short periods, up to 24 hours total. Do not use it if the solution becomes cloudy or colored.

Off-Label Uses

Pulmozyme is most often prescribed to thin mucus in people with cystic fibrosis. Healthcare providers may also prescribe Pulmozyme off-label for other uses that haven’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In some cases, healthcare providers may use Pulmozyme off-label to treat:

  • Pleural infection, an infection of the pleura, the thin layers of tissue that separate the lungs from the chest wall
  • Asthma, a chronic disease that causes inflammation and constriction of the airways
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), such as emphysema, a long-term lung condition that causes breathing problems

How Long Does Pulmozyme Take to Work?

Pulmozyme starts working immediately, but you may not notice the full effects for at least two weeks after starting it.

What Are the Side Effects of Pulmozyme?

This is not a complete list of side effects, and others may occur. A healthcare provider can advise you on side effects. If you experience other effects, contact your healthcare provider. You may report side effects to the FDA at fda.gov/medwatch or 1-800-FDA-1088.

Common Side Effects

Common side effects of Pulmozyme include:

  • Voice changes
  • Irritation of the throat, nose, or eyes
  • Rash
  • Laryngitis (loss of voice due to inflammation of your voice box) or hoarseness
  • Fever
  • Decrease in forced vital capacity (FVC), which is the total amount of air you can forcibly exhale as measured by a lung function test 

Severe Side Effects

Call your healthcare provider immediately if you have serious side effects. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency. Serious side effects of Pulmozyme can include chest pain and shortness of breath (dyspnea).

Report Side Effects

Pulmozyme may cause other side effects. Call your healthcare provider if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your healthcare provider may send a report to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program or by phone (800-332-1088).

Dosage: How Much Pulmozyme Should I Take?

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

The dose of this medicine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of this medicine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.

The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.

  • For inhalation dosage form (solution):
    • For cystic fibrosis:
      • Adults and children 5 years of age and older—2.5 milligrams (mg) (one ampule) once a day in the nebulizer.
      • Children 3 months to 4 years of age—Dose must be determined by your doctor. The dose is usually 2.5 mg (one ampule) once a day in the nebulizer.
      • Children younger than 3 months of age—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.

Missed Dose

Pulmozyme should be used regularly according to your healthcare provider's instructions. If you miss a dose, take it as soon as possible. But if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose. You should not take extra doses at one time to make up for a missed dose.

Overdose: What Happens If I Take Too Much Pulmozyme?

It is unlikely that a person would experience harmful effects from taking too much Pulmozyme. This is because the drug does not get absorbed into the bloodstream significantly. Also, the drug has a short half-life of three to four hours, and its effects wear off relatively quickly.

Still, if you think you've taken too much Pulmozyme, it is best to call your healthcare provider or pharmacist. They can advise you on what to do or if you should seek medical care.

Precautions

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

It is very important that your doctor check the progress of you or your child at regular visits. This is to make sure that the medicine is working properly and to check for unwanted effects.

If your or your child's condition becomes worse while you are using this medicine, check with your doctor right away.

If any of your medicines do not seem to be working as well as usual, call your doctor right away. Do not change your doses or stop using your medicines without asking your doctor.

What Are Reasons I Shouldn’t Take Pulmozyme?

Pulmozyme should not be used in people who are allergic to dornase alfa, its ingredients, or products of Chinese hamster ovary cells.

What Medications Interact With Pulmozyme?

No specific drug interactions are known to occur with Pulmozyme.

However, if you use other inhaled medications that are given using a nebulizer, you should use them separately from Pulmozyme. No other medications should be mixed with Pulmozyme in the nebulizer or inhaled at the same time as Pulmozyme.

Here are some examples of other inhalation medications that you should not mix or pour into the nebulizer chamber at the same time as Pulmozyme:

What Medications Are Similar?

Pulmozyme is used to thin mucus in a unique way. There are no other drugs that work exactly like Pulmozyme. However, people with cystic fibrosis may use other medications to thin mucus as well as manage other symptoms of the condition.

Other inhaled medications may be used separately from Pulmozyme to thin mucus. Some examples include:

  • Sodium chloride, also called hypertonic saline
  • Bronchitol (mannitol)

Other types of medications are used to treat cystic fibrosis or manage its symptoms. Some examples include:

  • Kalydeco (ivacaftor)
  • Orkambi (lumacaftor and ivacaftor)
  • Symdeko (tezacaftor/ivacaftor and ivacaftor) and Trikafta (elexacaftor/tezacaftor/ivacaftor and ivacaftor), both of which come in convenience packs of multiple oral tablets

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How does Pulmozyme work?

    Pulmozyme is a mucolytic enzyme drug inhaled via a nebulizer. It helps thin mucus, which makes breathing easier for people with cystic fibrosis. Mucus is a ​​clear, thick secretion found in the lining of the nose, throat, and mouth, among other areas of the body. This medication works by breaking apart the strands of DNA in mucus.

  • Can I mix Pulmozyme with albuterol or saline?

    No, you should not mix Pulmozyme with albuterol or any other nebulizer medication. The drug should also not be diluted with saline (also called sodium chloride).

  • Are there any side effects of suddenly stopping Pulmozyme?

    No, but your mucus will likely become thicker. With cystic fibrosis, thick mucus can lead to breathing problems, infections, and organ damage.

  • Is there a generic version of Pulmozyme?

    No, Pulmozyme is only available as a brand-name drug. The active ingredient, dornase alfa, is currently unavailable as a generic or biosimilar medication.

How Can I Stay Healthy While Taking Pulmozyme?

Thanks to advances in medicine and improved newborn screening practices, people with cystic fibrosis are living longer and better lives.

Taking Pulmozyme can help make mucus secretions thinner, but many other management practices are essential for staying healthy with this condition. Maintaining adequate nutrition, using airway-clearing techniques, and exercising to the best of your ability are just a few strategies to help you feel good while living with cystic fibrosis.

Medical Disclaimer

Verywell Health's drug information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a healthcare provider. Consult your healthcare provider before taking any new medication(s). IBM Watson Micromedex provides some of the drug content, as indicated on the page.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Yang C, Montgomery M. Dornase alfa for cystic fibrosis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2021;3(3):CD001127. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001127.pub5

  3. Majid A, Kheir F, Folch A, et al. Concurrent intrapleural instillation of tissue plasminogen activator and DNase for pleural infection. a single-center experience. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2016;13(9):1512-1518. doi:10.1513/AnnalsATS.201602-127OC

  4. Torbic H, Hacobian G. Evaluation of inhaled dornase alfa administration in non-cystic fibrosis patients at a tertiary academic medical center. J Pharm Pract. 2016;29(5):480-483. doi:10.1177/0897190014568385

  5. Bakker EM, Volpi S, Salonini E, et al. Improved treatment response to dornase alfa in cystic fibrosis patients using controlled inhalation. Eur Respir J. 2011;38(6):1328-1335. doi:10.1183/09031936.00006211

By Patricia Weiser, PharmD
Patricia Weiser, PharmD, is a licensed pharmacist and freelance medical writer. She has more than 14 years of professional experience.