Mucomyst (Acetylcysteine) is a prescription medication used to treat or prevent mucus buildup in the lungs. It works by breaking down mucus, which makes it easier to cough up for removal.
In this article, we will provide an overview of Mucomyst, including its uses, dosage, side effects, and more.
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What is Mucomyst?
Mucomyst is the brand name for acetylcysteine, which is a mucolytic agent used to help break up mucus in people with respiratory conditions.
It is administered with a nebulizer, which breaks up a liquid solution into tiny aerosol particles that can be inhaled into the lungs.
Mucomyst is most commonly administered to treat or prevent mucus buildup in patients with lung diseases.
Mucomyst is indicated for the treatment or prevention of mucus buildup in the following respiratory conditions:
- Chronic bronchitis
- Cystic fibrosis
- Atelectasis (due to a mucus obstruction)
Acetylcysteine can also be administered orally as an antidote for an acetaminophen overdose, but more on that later.
The standard dose of Mucomyst for adults when administered via nebulization is 1-10 mL of the 20% solution or 2-20 mL of the 10% solution.
It can be administered every 2-6 hours and is performed by a respiratory therapist. The patient can use a mask or mouthpiece with a nebulizer in order to inhale the Mucomyst solution.
Mucomyst is effective in helping to break up mucus, but it can also cause a few side effects, including:
- Stomach pain
- Runny nose
- Throat irritation
Bronchoconstriction is an adverse side effect of Mucomyst. Therefore, a bronchodilator is often administered in order to help open the airways and prevent wheezing.
Mucomyst is contraindicated in patients who are allergic or sensitive to the drug. And, as previously mentioned, bronchoconstriction is a common side effect of this drug.
Therefore, patients with asthma or other obstructive lung diseases must be monitored closely while Mucomyst is delivered.
If bronchospasm occurs, it can usually be treated and reversed with an inhaled bronchodilator drug, such as Albuterol.
What is a Mucolytic Agent?
Mucus is a sticky, viscous substance produced by the mucous membranes. It serves an important role, as it traps foreign particles and bacteria, preventing them from entering the body.
However, mucus can also build up and cause problems, especially in people with respiratory conditions.
This is when mucolytic agents would be indicated because they work to dissolve mucus, which makes it easy to expectorate.
The two primary types of mucolytic agents are:
- Mucomyst (Acetylcysteine)
- Pulmozyme (Dornase Alfa)
Pulmozyme (Dornase Alfa) is an inhaled drug that is most commonly administered to patients with cystic fibrosis.
However, for the remainder of this article, we will focus on Mucomyst.
Why Does Mucomyst Smell?
Mucomyst is known for its distinct, foul-smelling odor. It has often been described to smell like “rotten eggs.”
That is because the acetylcysteine molecule contains sulfur, which explains why it has such a distinct smell. The odor can be strong at first, but the good news is that it tends to dissipate over time.
Acetylcysteine to Treat an Acetaminophen Overdose
Acetaminophen is a common pain reliever that is found in over-the-counter medications, such as Tylenol. While it is generally safe when used as directed, acetaminophen can be toxic in large doses.
Acetaminophen toxicity can lead to liver damage and, in severe cases, death.
However, acetylcysteine can be administered orally to treat or prevent a hepatic injury that may occur after an acetaminophen overdose.
It helps replenish depleted reserves in the liver that can enhance the non-toxic metabolism of acetaminophen. The sooner acetylcysteine is administered, the better the chance of preventing liver damage.
Can Mucomyst Be Administered With a Nebulizer?
Yes, Mucomyst is commonly administered with a nebulizer as a mucolytic agent. It breaks the solution into small aerosol droplets that can be inhaled into the lungs.
The drug works by thinning the mucus so that it can be cleared more easily.
Can Mucomyst Be Given Orally?
Yes, Mucomyst can also be given orally to treat or prevent liver damage that may occur after an acetaminophen overdose.
When given orally, Mucomyst helps replenish depleted reserves in the liver that can enhance the non-toxic metabolism of acetaminophen.
What is Mucomyst an Antidote for?
Mucomyst is an antidote for acetaminophen toxicity. It can be administered orally to treat or prevent hepatic injury that may occur after an acetaminophen overdose.
When administered for this reason, acetylcysteine is most effective when given within 8-10 hours of the overdose.
Where to Buy Mucomyst?
Mucomyst is a prescription medication, so it cannot be purchased over-the-counter from a retail store. Its use requires medical supervision and is often administered via nebulization by a trained respiratory therapist.
Is There a Mucomyst Inhaler?
No, Mucomyst is available as a solution for nebulization and must be used with a special aerosol-generating device. It is not available in an inhaler form.
However, when administered with a nebulizer, Mucomyst is effective in helping break up mucus so that it becomes easier to cough up for removal.
Was Mucomyst Discontinued?
Yes, the brand name Mucomyst has been discontinued in the United States. However, there may be generic versions of acetylcysteine available if they have been approved by the FDA.
What is the Difference between Mucinex and Mucomyst?
Mucinex is the brand name for the over-the-counter medication guaifenesin. Guaifenesin is an expectorant that helps thin and loosens mucus so that it can be coughed up and removed from the lungs.
Mucomyst, on the other hand, is a mucolytic agent that is available as a prescription medication. It is most often administered with a nebulizer that breaks up the solution into aerosol particles that can be inhaled into the lungs.
Mucomyst is a mucolytic agent that is indicated for the treatment or prevention of mucus buildup in respiratory conditions.
It can be administered by nebulization as a mucolytic agent or orally for the treatment of an acetaminophen overdose. Mucomyst is effective in breaking up mucus, but it can also cause side effects, such as bronchospasm, coughing, and nausea.
Mucomyst is contraindicated in patients who are allergic or sensitive to the drug and should be used with caution in asthmatic patients.
To learn more, be sure to check out our full guide on mucolytic agents. Thanks for reading, and, as always, breathe easy, my friend.
John Landry, BS, RRT
John Landry is a registered respiratory therapist from Memphis, TN, and has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. He enjoys using evidence-based research to help others breathe easier and live a healthier life.
- Faarc, Gardenhire Douglas EdD Rrt-Nps. Rau’s Respiratory Care Pharmacology. 10th ed., Mosby, 2019.
- Faarc, Kacmarek Robert PhD Rrt, et al. Egan’s Fundamentals of Respiratory Care. 12th ed., Mosby, 2020.
- “Mucomyst (Acetylcysteine Solution): Uses, Dosage, Side Effects, Interactions, Warning.” RxList, 19 July 2021, www.rxlist.com/acetylcysteine-solution-drug.htm.