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Clinical data
Trade namesAfrin, Ocuclear, Drixine
  • C
Routes of
ATC code
Legal status
Legal status
Pharmacokinetic data
MetabolismKidney (30%), fecal (10%)
Elimination 5-6 hours
CAS Number
PubChem CID
CompTox Dashboard (EPA)
ECHA InfoCard100.014.618 Edit this at Wikidata
Chemical and physical data
Molar mass g·mol-1
3D model (JSmol)
Melting point301.5 °C (574.7 °F)
 ?N?Y (what is this?)  (verify)

Oxymetazoline is a selective ?1 adrenergic receptor agonist and ?2 adrenergic receptor partial agonist. It is a topical decongestant, used in the form of oxymetazoline hydrochloride. It was developed from xylometazoline at E. Merck Darmstadt by Fruhstorfer in 1961.[1] Oxymetazoline is generally available as a nasal spray.

Medical uses

Oxymetazoline is available over-the-counter as a topical decongestant in the form of oxymetazoline hydrochloride in nasal sprays such as Otrivin, Afrin, Operil, Dristan, Dimetapp, Oxyspray, Facimin, Nasivin, Nostrilla, Utabon, Sudafed OM, Vicks Sinex, Zicam, SinuFrin, Drixoral[2] and Mucinex Full Force.[3]

In the United States, oxymetazoline 1% cream is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for topical treatment of persistent facial erythema (redness) associated with rosacea in adults.[4]

Due to its vasoconstricting properties, oxymetazoline is also used to treat nose bleeds[5][6] and eye redness due to minor irritation (marketed as Visine L.R. in the form of eye drops).[][7]

Side effects and special considerations

Rebound congestion

Rebound congestion, or rhinitis medicamentosa, may occur. A 2006 review of the pathology of rhinitis medicamentosa concluded that use of oxymetazoline for more than three days may result in rhinitus medicamentosa and recommended limiting use to three days.[8] In a submission to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, a Novartis representative concluded, "The justification was not based on evidence." Citing an existing extensive body of evidence and noting a range of recommended periods from ten to five days, Novartis recommended the established five day period for its use for self-medication without medical consultation as it coincides with the typical duration of the common cold. [9]

Use in pregnancy

The Food and Drug Administration places oxymetazoline in category C, indicating risk to the fetus cannot be ruled out. While it has been shown that a single dose does not significantly alter either maternal or fetal circulation,[10] this subject has not been studied extensively enough to draw reliable conclusions.[original research?]


If accidentally ingested, standard methods to remove unabsorbed drugs should be considered.[clarification needed] There is no specific antidote for oxymetazoline, although its pharmacological effects may be reversed by ? adrenergic antagonists such as phentolamine. In the event of a possibly life-threatening overdose (such as a hypertensive crisis), benzodiazepines should be considered to decrease the likelihood of seizures and convulsions, as well as reduce anxiety and to lower blood pressure. In children, oxymetazoline may produce profound central nervous system depression due to stimulation of central ?2 receptors and imidazoline receptors, much like clonidine.[]



Oxymetazoline is a sympathomimetic that selectively agonizes ?1 and, partially, ?2 adrenergic receptors.[11] Since vascular beds widely express ?1 receptors, the action of oxymetazoline results in vasoconstriction. In addition, the local application of the drug also results in vasoconstriction due to its action on endothelial postsynaptic ?2 receptors; systemic application of ?2 agonists, in contrast, causes vasodilation because of centrally-mediated inhibition of sympathetic tone via presynaptic ?2 receptors.[12] Vasoconstriction of vessels results in relief of nasal congestion in two ways: first, it increases the diameter of the airway lumen; second, it reduces fluid exudation from postcapillary venules.[13] It can reduce nasal airway resistance (NAR) up to 35.7% and reduce nasal mucosal blood flow up to 50%.[14]


Imidazolines are sympathomimetic agents, with primary effects on ? adrenergic receptors and little if any effect on ? adrenergic receptors.[] Oxymetazoline is readily absorbed orally.[] Effects on ? receptors from systemically absorbed oxymetazoline hydrochloride may persist for up to 7 hours after a single dose.[] The elimination half-life in humans is 5-8 hours.[] It is excreted unchanged both by the kidneys (30%) and in feces (10%).[]


The oxymetazoline brand Afrin was first sold as a prescription medication in 1966. After finding substantial early success as a prescription medication, it became available as an over-the-counter drug in 1975. Schering-Plough did not engage in heavy advertising until 1986.[15]

From the mid 1980s to mid 1990s, the brand Sinex was featured in many television advertisements. Some of these commercials showed men, women, and children using other brands of nasal sprays, and then standing upside down on a sidewalk, or against a wall, etc or hanging upside down from various playground equipment to prevent their nasal spray from dripping out. This was juxtaposed with Sinex users not having to hang upside side down or stand on their heads as it didn't drip out.

Society and culture

Brand names

Brand names include Afrin, Drixine, Dristan, Nasivin, Nasivion, Nezeril, Nostrilla, Logicin, Vicks Sinex, Visine L.R., Sudafed OM, Zicam, Otrivin Oxy, SinuFrin and Mucinex Sinus-Max.


  1. ^ German Patent 1,117,588
  2. ^ "Drixoral Decongestant Nasal Spray". Bayer. Retrieved 2017.
  3. ^ "Oxymetazoline: Drug Information Provided by Lexi-Comp: Merck Manual Professional". Merck.com. Retrieved 2013.
  4. ^ Patel, Nupur U; Shukla, Shweta; Zaki, Jessica; Feldman, Steven R (2017). "Oxymetazoline hydrochloride cream for facial erythema associated with rosacea". Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology. 10 (10): 1049. doi:10.1080/17512433.2017.1370370. PMID 28837365.
  5. ^ Katz, Robert I.; Hovagim, Alec R.; Finkelstein, Harvey S.; Grinberg, Yair; Boccio, Remigio V.; Poppers, Paul J. (1990). "A comparison of cocaine, lidocaine with epinephrine, and oxymetazoline for prevention of epistaxis on nasotracheal intubation". Journal of Clinical Anesthesia. 2 (1): 16-20. doi:10.1016/0952-8180(90)90043-3. PMID 2310576.
  6. ^ Krempl, G. A.; Noorily, A. D. (1995). "Use of oxymetazoline in the management of epistaxis". The Annals of Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology. 104 (9 Pt 1): 704-6. PMID 7661519.
  7. ^ "VISINE® Original Red Eye Drops | VISINE products". Visine.com. Retrieved 2013.
  8. ^ Ramey, J. T.; Bailen, E; Lockey, R. F. (2006). "Rhinitis medicamentosa". Journal of investigational allergology & clinical immunology. 16 (3): 148-55. PMID 16784007.
  9. ^ Nguyen, Tra-My (2014). "Consultation submission: OTC nasal decongestant preparations for topical use: proposed advisory statements for medicines" (PDF). Novartis Consumer Health Australasia.
  10. ^ Rayburn, W. F.; Anderson, J. C.; Smith, C. V.; Appel, L. L.; Davis, S. A. (1990). "Uterine and fetal Doppler flow changes from a single dose of a long-acting intranasal decongestant". Obstetrics and gynecology. 76 (2): 180-2. PMID 2196495.
  11. ^ Westfall Thomas C, Westfall David P, "Chapter 6. Neurotransmission: The Autonomic and Somatic Motor Nervous Systems" (Chapter). Brunton LL, Lazo JS, Parker KL: Goodman & Gilman's The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, 11e: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 September 2011. Retrieved 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link).
  12. ^ Biaggioni Italo, Robertson David, "Chapter 9. Adrenoceptor Agonists & Sympathomimetic Drugs" (Chapter). Katzung BG: Basic & Clinical Pharmacology, 11e: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 September 2011. Retrieved 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link).
  13. ^ Widdicombe, John (1997). "Microvascular anatomy of the nose". Allergy. 52 (40 Suppl): 7-11. doi:10.1111/j.1398-9995.1997.tb04877.x. PMID 9353554.
  14. ^ Bende, M.; Löth, S. (2007). "Vascular effects of topical oxymetazoline on human nasal mucosa". The Journal of Laryngology & Otology. 100 (3): 285-8. doi:10.1017/S0022215100099151. PMID 3950497.
  15. ^ Dougherty, Phillip H. (20 October 1986). "Advertising; Afrin Goes After Users Of Nasal Decongestants". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2015.

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