WASHINGTON (WWJ/AP) – Asthma patients who rely on over-the-counter inhalers will need to switch to prescription-only alternatives as part of the federal government’s latest attempt to protect the Earth’s atmosphere.
The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday patients who use the epinephrine inhalers will need to switch by Dec. 31 to other types that do not contain chlorofluorocarbons, an aerosol substance once found in a variety of spray products.
The action is part of an agreement signed by the U.S. and other nations to stop using substances that deplete the ozone layer, a region in the atmosphere that helps block harmful ultraviolet rays from the Sun.
But the switch to a greener inhaler will cost consumers more. Epinephrine inhalers are available via online retailers for around $20, whereas the alternatives, which contain the drug albuterol, range from $30 to $60.
The FDA finalized plans to phase out the products in 2008 and currently only Armstrong Pharmaceutical’s Primatene mist is available in the U.S. Other manufacturers have switched to an environmentally-friendly propellant called hydrofluoroalkane. Both types of inhalers offer quick-relief to symptoms like shortness of breath and chest tightness, but the environmentally-friendly inhalers are only available via prescription.
Dr. Devang Doshi with Beaumont Children’s Hospital, told WWJ Newsradio 950 he’s pleased with the FDA’s decision.
“The safety of this medication is in question, because many patients clearly self-medicate. They may have breathing concerns or issues and they don’t seek the advice of their healthcare provider,” he said.
“They may not, in fact, truly have asthma, and then are self-medicating with a medication that can potentially be harmfull, which is way many of us don’t like this medication available,” Doshi said.
Doshi said there is a possibility they will replace the drug, but said anyone who feels they may have respiratory problems should see a doctor to get the correct prescription.
– More information from the FDA at this link (.pdf format) –
The Associated Press contributed to this report.