Bromine compounds are used in drugs and as a catalyst for the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals

The first known use of bromine for medical purposes was back in 1835. Previously used as a sedative in the 19th and early 20th century, today it is used in both drugs and as a catalyst for the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals.

Over-the-counter and prescription drugs

Bromine-based ingredients are used in many over-the-counter and prescription drugs, as well as a treatment for many differing health problems.

Bromide ions have the ability to decrease the sensitivity of the central nervous system which makes them effective for use as sedatives, anti-epileptics, and tranquillizers. This aids patients who, for example suffer from seizures, or to babies who have colic, and is even used in expectorants, for cough medicine.

Besides its use as a sedative, bromine based medicine is also supplied to those suffering from heart problems, thyroid hyperactivity, and hysteria.

Other far more diverse uses include its treatment for pneumonia and cocaine addiction1.


Brominated compounds are often used for the preparation of pharmaceutical products, where it is used as an indispensable catalyst that increases the reaction rate.

When used as a catalyst, bromine compounds speed up the chemical reaction while at the same time reducing its energy intensity. A catalyst works by providing an alternative reaction for the processed chemicals by lowering the activation energy required. The bromine remains unprocessed in the reaction, and does not undergo any chemical reaction.

For example, brominated compounds are applied as catalysts in the production of naproxen and the sunscreen component octyl methoxycinnamate2. While bromine compounds are used in the manufacturing of these products, the end molecule does not contain any bromine.

did you know?

2. De Vries, Johannes G. (2001). “The Heck reaction in the production of fine chemicals”. Canadian Journal of Chemistry 79 (5–6): 1086. doi:10.1139/cjc-79-5-6-1086