“Breaking Brad,” or, “I need an old drug”

With the change of weather, my throat started feeling a bit scratchy yesterday, although with the help of an antihistamine, a decongestant and cough drops, I got through dress rehearsal last night.

Today, there’s a definite soreness creeping in, and it feels… I hesitate to type this… the way it does before my voice goes all croaky and barely inaudible. I share that periodic condition with Bill Clinton. Related to allergies.

And we open tonight.

So I started thinking about what I could do about it, and my mind naturally turned to thoughts of Tedral.

Tedral was an amazing, cheap little pill that used to be prescribed for asthma, but I discovered a neat side effect — it cleared my throat, and my voice, like nothing else in the world. Back in the 70s and early 80s, I used to take one before speaking, or appearing on stage, or singing in the folk choir at church, and it worked wonderfully. It was like magic.

Very off-label, of course.

So I was about to call around to some pharmacies (starting with my own) to see if anybody still had it, or knew who did. Because near as I can recall, the last time I got any, it was available over-the-counter.

But I thought I’d check the Web first. And as near as I can tell, Tedral was banned from the U.S. market in 1993. Although I haven’t really found what looks like an authoritative source on that.

It probably had something to do with the ingredients, which according to the Web were:

  1. theophylline
  2. phenobarbital
  3. ephedrine

I had known about the theophylline (a bronchodilator) and phenobarbital (a narcotic that I suppose was meant to take the edge off the bronchodilator). But I hadn’t remembered the ephedrine.

Looks like I’m out of luck. And I’m glad I didn’t start calling multiple pharmacies looking for it. They might have thought I was a Walter White copycat.

So... you wouldn't happen to have any, um, Tedral in stock, would you?

26 thoughts on ““Breaking Brad,” or, “I need an old drug”

  1. bud

    Here’s a guy who is more than willing to throw people in jail for toking a bit of pot to help with the side effects of chemotherapy trying to cop an outlawed drug to help with a scratchy throat. Delectibly ironic don’t you think?

  2. Brad

    Not at all. This was a routine, over-the-counter med when I took it. Something I was prescribed my whole childhood. I had no reason to think it was anything else until I started researching it.

    At which point I stopped trying to obtain it.

  3. Silence

    Yup, with the phenobarbital and ephedrine I’m not suprised that it was effective. I’m also not suprised that it’s off the market.

  4. Brad

    Of course, this drug DID have some nasty side effects sometimes. It made me testy, and even paranoid. Especially if I drank caffeine while taking it.

    Once, in my teens, I had just taken some before going bowling — just by myself, staying in shape for the league I was in (I was actually in the city All-Star league, representing my alley, in Tampa). I had to quit after a few moments because every time a ball hit pins on any of the surrounding lanes, it was like an explosion in my head. But that wasn’t the bad part. The bad part was that I just could not shake the firm conviction that those people were deliberately making those sounds just to torment me. Really. I was conscious that that was utterly irrational, which was why I quit and went home.

    So yeah, maybe it’s not entirely a bad thing that it’s off the market…

    1. Jim

      Tedral was the only medication that help me breath when I was experiencing asthma. The ephedrine worked like epinephrine to open the bronchial passage and the phenobarbital took the edge off and stop the shakes. They took it off the market after it changed from prescription to over the counter for two reasons. 1.Those who like the illegal drugs would acquire Tedral and incorporate it into their illicit drug they made and 2. When the patent expired their was generic Tedral produced and Doctors get paid to prescribe newer or different meds that have patents and generate better revenue without the competition. So basically the criminal element and Doctors on the take caused the withdrawal of Tedral from the market place. And I haven’t found anything that helps as well with my breathing. Coffee works better than anything on the market to this date, for me. However Brad, I dated a lady that was a singer and she had allergies. What she began doing is drinking orange juice to keep her voice. Using concentrated orange juice she would replace the water needed with aloe vera juice. Same quantity and it gave more body to the juice. I actually still mix orange juice that way because aloe vera has medicinal properties and the orange juice tastes better.

  5. Brad

    But boy, did it open up my throat and make my voice clear as a bell. And it even helped relieve asthma symptoms There are tradeoffs in life.

    Frankly, I think the reason my voice is so much raspier and less reliable today than it was years ago is because of decades of using steroid inhalers, which is the modern way to keep asthma in check.

    My sort of in-law Hunter Herring (he’s my son’s father-in-law — what do you call that?), who also has asthma, quit using a steroid inhaler soon after starting to use it because it affected his voice. As you may know, Hunter is a DJ, and his voice is his main professional tool.

  6. Brad

    One more word on all this…

    Tedral is an example of the kind of drugs we used to take, when I was young. You only took them when you were sick.

    Starting in I guess the 80s, pharmaceutical companies quit making drugs to treat you when you had an attack of a chronic illness. They switched to drugs you have to take every day of your life to PREVENT having an attack.

    Some of these drugs work FAR better than the old approach. But they’re also far more expensive, and you have to keep buying them, because you’re as dependent on them as an addict. When I depended on things like Tedral to deal with my asthma, it formed an inconsequential part of my family’s budget. Not so with these new drugs, which you have to budget for the way you do your mortgage.

    So maybe this prophylactic approach is good medicine. But it’s also a WAY better business model…

  7. Kathryn Fenner

    Are you taking an old school antihistamine, like Benadryl or Chlortrimeton? Guaifenisin helps with chest congestion, and in lieu of theophylline, caffeine is a reasonable alternative. Since you’ve been off it, it may help you get through your show. I think tea has a lot of theophylline, fwiw. Hot tea is supposed to be the best for cold symptoms, according to the NYT.

  8. Steven Davis II

    “I had just taken some before going bowling — just by myself, staying in shape for the league I was in”

    What “in shape”? Bowling is the only sport you need to be in less shape than softball and still be fit to play. Bowling is in between softball and sumo wrestling.

  9. Steven Davis II

    Get one of those little tea pots you see on television and pour a gallon of hot water in your nose. If anything it’ll take your mind off your scratchy throat.

  10. bud

    I was conscious that that was utterly irrational, which was why I quit and went home.

    I hope you didn’t drive yourself. I can see the road rage now.

  11. Silence

    Better get used to not having drugs available, what with Obamacare coming and rationing just around the corner. Stock up now on staple drug needs or it’s just gonna be fake sudafed (the in front of the counter stuff) and generic ibuprofin for you from here on out.

  12. Mab

    bud — when did you get so cranky? Good grief, man. Death wishes, rage virus hallucinations…

    “Are you OK?” “Do we need to send LCSD over to check on you?”


    Speaking of “these new drugs, which you have to budget for the way you do your mortgage…”

    They are out there, believe me. One (with many, many excellent, excellent commercials on the telly) is $700/month. But the first month is free! The next month, if you and your housemates make it through (survive) the side effects, it’s half off. Bargain?!

  13. Steven Davis II

    @Mab – “bud — when did you get so cranky?”

    I believe it was sometime shortly after the first presidential debate.

  14. Brad

    Bryan, did it bother you that, after all that “I’m in the empire business” stuff, after amply demonstrating that NOTHING would deter him, Walter ups and quits in the space of one episode? I mean, his wife shows him the pile of money she doesn’t know what to do with, and that’s it?

    It just seemed too sudden to me.

    It was a reasonable response, but we had been shown that he was no longer a reasonable man…

  15. Rose

    I have to take daily inhalers. The first ones prescribed did cause throat irritation and hoarseness, so the doc tried some others that don’t have that effect.
    Something that actually helped my periodic, allergy-related throat congestion (post-nasal drip) was Clarinex – the prescription version, not the OTC Claritin. The OTC stuff helped a little, but man, that Clarinex is fabulous. The three years I’ve had that combo of inhalers and Clarinex have been the healthiest I’ve had in a long long time.

  16. bud

    bud — when did you get so cranky? Good grief, man. Death wishes, rage virus hallucinations…

    Wow. Where did that come from? I don’t wish Brad any harm. Perhaps a couple of missing words gave that indication but seriously how could anyone think that?

    As for the road rage comment, that IS a pretty serious problem. Brad acknowledged he was too keyed up to bowl and as a man working in highway safety issues for 25 years I’ve seen plenty of tragedies caused by the influence of drugs. I was merely counciling Brad (and everyone else) to refrain from driving after recognizing the influence of the drugs. It’s a major problem in this country that claims many more lives than war.

  17. Brad

    I always walked to and from the bowling alley. It was on MacDill AFB, where I lived during that period.

    At the time, my Dad was attached to Strike Command, a sort of forerunner of Central Command, which directs all military operations in the Mideast. It’s a joint command, which is why a Navy family was living on an Air Force Base.

  18. michaelene

    I also have light ashtma…and there was such a simple, cheap way..Tedral.

    The USA is nothing but BIG PHARMA BUSINESS!!! If you research…you will find that this is the path: CVS: owned by caremark. Caremark owned by State Farm Insurance. No doubt they are all like that.

    Money makers is all they are. Circumvent them when you can.

    And don’t believe the BS about: “you can only trust the drugs made in the USA”.WELL!!! The vast majority are made in Europe and Asia. India especially. Oh…they are distributed by some USA place…but take time. Read the small print. I have a special ointment. It is made in CROATIA!!!

    We are being ripped off horribly!!!!

  19. jack

    hi my name is jack and tedral was the best for my asthma, b4 that i had to get injections, but tedral was a life saver. when they banned tedral my asthma has never been the same. but i went to the canadian pharm. and they have Quadral (tedral) which has theophyline. it does help.

  20. Brad Warthen Post author

    Hey, all my fellow Tedral heads. Today, years after this post, I received this email:

    I found a bottle… of the Tedral in my grandfather’s dresser drawer. He had COPD but it looks like a full bottle (haven’t counted). I went looking to see what it was and your page came up. I have no need for it but am in another country. Just wanted to mention it. Thank you, Joanne

    Anybody want to play “mule” and go fetch this for me? I’ll halve the bottle with you… 🙂


    I lived my teenage years on the stuff. Prescribed too much probably as the effect for me was like cocaine. I was shaky, couldn’t sleep. It did help my asthma, help improve my grades (it seemed to make me smarter) and it helped me start withdrawing from Prednisone (then referred to as ‘cortisone’) which I had taken in such great quantities that I stopped growing at age 8 and only at age 18 did Drs discover the reason was the steroids. So Tedral helped me with the beginnings of withdrawal (and to grow a little more). I miss it for its cocaine-like properties and energy boost. I remember mornings at school holding the edge of my desk to keep me anchored because many days it seemed like I was about to rocket off but I didn’t like not sleeping. But the combination of steroid withdrawal and Tedral also contributed to episodes of psychotic anger. Took me until my mid 50’s to finally stop taking Prednisone, which I am thankful and do not miss but I do miss Tedral, which some days I say to myself, it would really help with my breathing and senior moments. Ha.

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