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Asthma Patients Will Need New Inhalers Soon

Jun 2, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP Patients who use albuterol inhalers to control asthma take note - the inhaler you are accustomed to will no longer be available at the end of this year.  Last week, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) warned patients not to wait until the last minute to switch to newer alternatives.

The old-style albuterol inhalers used chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs,  to propel the drug into the lungs. But CFC-containing consumer products are being phased out because the chemicals damage the Earth's protective ozone layer. The phaseout of CFC-propelled inhalers is the result of the Clean Air Act and an international environmental treaty, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Under the treaty, the US agreed to phase out production and importation of ozone depleting substances including CFCs.

As of Dec. 31, asthma inhalers with CFCs can no longer be made or sold in the US. Inhalers instead will be powered by ozone-friendly HFAs, or hydrofluoroalkanes.  Three HFA-propelled albuterol inhalers have been approved by the FDA: Proair HFA Inhalation Aerosol, Proventil HFA Inhalation Aerosol, and Ventolin HFA Inhalation Aerosol. In addition, an HFA-propelled inhaler containing levalbuterol, a medicine similar to albuterol, is available as Xopenex HFA Inhalation Aerosol.

The FDA is urging patients to talk with their health care professionals now about switching to HFA-propelled albuterol inhalers. These products are safe and effective replacements for CFC-propelled albuterol inhalers.

The FDA said that manufacturers have been increasing production of HFA albuterol inhalers, so an adequate supply is available now. According to the agency, HFA-propelled albuterol inhalers may taste and feel different than the CFC-propelled albuterol inhalers. The spray of an HFA-propelled albuterol inhaler may feel softer than that of a CFC-propelled albuterol inhaler. Patients must also prime and clean HFA-propelled albuterol inhalers. Doing so prevents buildup of the drug in the inhalation device, and buildup can block the medicine from reaching the lungs. Each HFA-propelled albuterol inhaler has different priming, cleaning, and drying instructions, and patients should read and understand the instructions first before using the inhaler.

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