Asthma Inhalers Go Green, But At What Cost?
Albuterol is a bronchodilator used as a treatment for various pulmonary diseases, but most commonly for asthma. Albuterol is so effective at relaxing muscles and opening up breathing passages, it is delivered to the bronchia in the fastest way possible through an oral inhaler. Self-administered through the inhaler, Albuterol can literally rescue patients from oncoming attacks.
But there is a new law going into effect New Years Eve in compliance with an international "save the ozone layer" agreement, that prohibits a propellant of Albuterol, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), from being used in medical and all other applications. Instead, pharmaceutical companies have made new metered-dose inhalers that use hydrofluoroalkanes (HFAs) to pump Albuterol.
Though the HFA inhalers have been on the market for a few years and many doctors have been prescribing them, there is a sizable group of pulmonary patients who are against the ban of CFC inhalers because they claim the HFA inhalers are ineffective for them.
As the timely use of an Albuterol inhaler may make the difference between life and death, you can imagine how impassioned these patients are. They have formed The National Campaign to Save CFC Asthma Inhalers and have set up a documented Internet petition to the U.S. Congress to provide a medical exemption to the CFC ban for use in inhalers.
The Campaign suggests that the amount of CFCs used in inhalers pumps is minuscule compared to the amounts used for other purposes and that the international agreement (Montreal Protocol of 1987) was signed without knowing the efficacy of a greener medicinal gas. Inefficacy reports of the new HFC inhalers are being compiled from pulmonary patients throughout the world.
In addition to the inefficacy complaints, there are two other big reasons why some asthma sufferers may not be helped by the change to HFC inhalers: the high cost of the HFA inhalers and the lack of knowledge about how to use them.
The HFA inhalers cost $30 to $60, whereas the CFC inhalers cost $5 to $25. Through the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (1-888-477-2669) some persons who cannot afford the HFA inhalers may be helped, but patient education may not be accessible where it is needed to reach those persons. There is also a reported lack of physician education regarding use of the HDA inhalers, which differs somewhat from use of the CFC inhalers.
The ban against using CBCs inhalers may soon impact even more than the 20 million asthma patients in the U.S. and an number of sufferers worldwide. Drug companies are now looking to oral inhalers to administer drugs for many hundreds of other diseases because they can enter the bloodstream faster than other popular methods. Here is a pie chart of the estimated current market for oral inhalers...
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America reports that In the U.S. alone, asthma cases account for one in four emergency visits, more than 2 million visits per year. Many, if not most, of these visits could be prevented with proper ongoing care. What will be the impact of the newly enforced HFA inhalers on the number of hospital visits and the mortality numbers from asthma.
Also, will HFA be assumed to be the best propellant for medications, or just the greenest, in the future?
- The Seattle Times
- WebMD: HFA Asthma Inhalers: Making the Switch
- WebMD: Albuterol Inhaler - Oral
- WebMD: Menopause Ups Lean Women's Asthma Risk
- The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology
- The National Campaign to Save CFC Asthma Inhalers
- The National Campaign To Save CFC Asthma Inhalers Petition To Congress
- Next Safety™
Keeping you posted...