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Asthma Inhalers Getting a Makeover to Save the World

If you have asthma and you use an inhaler like Albuterol, then I have some bad news for you, but some good news for Mother Earth. In case you didn't know this, most inhalers right now use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to propel the medicine into user's lungs. CFCs (like those used in many aerosol hairsprays and deodorants) are bad for the environment because they deplete the ozone layer.

This change, which was mandated by the federal government in 2005, is going into effect by January 2009. These new CFC-free inhalers use ozone-friendly propellants called hydrofluoroalkanes (HFAs), and they've actually been available for over 10 years. Asthma sufferers are reluctant to make the switch though because CFC inhalers are generic and HFAs are brand-name, which means they cost three times more than CFC inhalers.

Since January 2007, the FDA has received over 400 complaints about the new HFA inhalers, saying they cost too much and don't work properly. Unfortunately, patients haven't been educated about the differences between the two. HFA inhalers have a softer spray, so some people think it's not working. They don't want to risk having to rush to the ER because of an asthma attack, so they continue to use the CFC inhalers.

Some insurers only cover one out of the four available HFA inhalers, and members of Congress are urging the Bush administration to cover the new inhalers equally. If the government is forcing people to make the switch to HFA inhalers, then insurance companies should help cover the cost. Hopefully they will by the end of the year, when CFC inhalers will be banned. If you suffer from asthma, how do you feel about this? Have any of you used these new eco-friendly inhalers?


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