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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?


Join The Conversation
LadyAneres LadyAneres 8 years
My asthma was not bad until I moved out of my parents house and I was exposed to smoke non-stop from the people who smoke outside the apartment (Windows a crappy, wind blows right through so does the smoke as well) and being exposed to it on the college campus. That's when I got a lung infection that led to me having to use inhalers from now on. I do know that I must have had very very mild asthma before but never had attacks. So Albuterol was my first inhaler, I liked it, it worked and it was only $8. When it ran out the doctor gave me the most pricy one there is. a $55 one of Xopenex. I had no choice that day but to get that inhaler because by time I went to Wal-Greens (also keep in mind the doctor/nurse did not tell me that changed my inhaler nor ask if I wanted a off brand. Nothing. They stuck me with the one that costs the most) and found out how much it was, the doctors office had decided to close early. Going into an asthma attack I had no choice but to go back to the store and get it. (After waiting forever for the workers to stop talking to each other while I can't breath) So Xopenex is not working anymore, I need a new one but I try one of the $35 but oh boy it has sulfate in it. Have an attack, I use it only for it make me cough harder and I about threw up. Well both inhalers that are the cheapest out there, I can not use. It makes me sick. Xopenex didn't work that well either but it keeps me alive. My life was better when I had Albuterol not to say I would be fully screwed if my parents didn't pay for it as how is a college student going to pay for a $55 inhaler passed all other costs of life and school. The main point being, they shouldn't have taken away what was cheap and worked for the people. They rather people die of not being able to breath and make money. I doubt it had much to do with the Ozone at all. After all, there are things out there that do a lot more harm to the Ozone then the inhalers that allow people to breath. Many of us wouldn't have asthma in the first place if the air was better in the first place, granted there are many other factors to it as well but we'd all live better. I know I'd live better if smoking was banned out right.
salex1230 salex1230 9 years
I've had asthma since I was in 6th grade. Last year I started using the new inhaler. At first I was pretty upset. I paid only $20 a month for my original inhaler, and this new one was over $40, and so much smaller than my original one. HOWEVER, now, I LOVE it! It works a million times better than my other one. I use it way less. Before, I had to refill my prescription once a month. With the new one, I refill it once every 6-7 months. WAY better!!!
meganfra meganfra 9 years
I cannot stand these new inhalers. The old ones work much better, for me at least. But if it helps the planet, I'll suck it up, so to speak.
okmaebe okmaebe 9 years
Uninsured. Asthmatic. *sigh* I get them from asthmatic relatives.
serenavallentine serenavallentine 9 years
as long as it works as well as my inhaler now, i'm excited to change to something better for the enviroment! hope that my fellow asthma-sufferers feel the same..
kia kia 9 years
If the increased cost is not covered for those with financial hardships then that is a travesty. This is one device that people need to have. I had a friend that passed away because he had an asthma attack and couldn't reach his inhaler in time and he was home alone. I think the prospect of something happening to someone because they couldn't afford the new inhaler is downright criminal.
faerymagick15 faerymagick15 9 years
i switched to the HFA inhaler about a year great!
hippiecowgirl hippiecowgirl 9 years
My doctor wrote my renewal RX for one of these new inhalers and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it! It doesn't make me feel sick like my old albuterol inhaler and it's earth-friendly!
Spectra Spectra 9 years
I used to test MDIs for my job and we tested CFC and HFA inhalers. I did notice a slight difference between the actuation force of each kind, but for the most part they deliver the same amount of drug. I use an HFA albuterol inhaler as my rescue inhaler, but I use it very infrequently.
tatsauce tatsauce 9 years
No wonder! I guess I've been using the new ones all this time because I was one of those people that thought my inhaler wasn't working. And all this time, I thought it was just a crappy inhaler. Inhalers unite!
amandax076 amandax076 9 years
I think the government should make sure these new inhalers are covered by insurance before making them mandatory. I have to use my albuterol daily before going to the gym and tripling the cost of the inhaler would probably prevent me from buying them (I am a relatively poor college students with multiple expensive asthma medications to pay for along with the albuterol). Before making them mandatory, they need to lower the price to allow everyone to continue to use their inhalers as they should.
Swedeybebe Swedeybebe 9 years
Good info... Although there are only 3 brands currently in the market that are available to the public via prescription. Proair HFA, Ventolin HFA & Proventil HFA. Lovely- I envy your healthcare system!
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
emo_stacer emo_stacer 9 years
The new HFA eco-halers work just as well as the older ones. So its all good with me.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 9 years
Some people, such as myself, have a limit on prescriptions throughout the year, so something that is covered can still eat up your yearly limit much faster, meaning that you might not be covered later on. I guess it just bugs me that people won't have the choice, whether they have insurance or not. If the government is going to mandate the type of medication that you use, they should make allowances for disparities in cost.
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
I can't even use those types of inhalers anymore (like the one in the picture) because really, the disks and turbohalers work 10 times better! They are expensive but I am 100% medically covered (thanks Canada ;) ) so I am ok.
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