Nov. 11 -- MONDAY, Nov. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Change is coming to the lifesaving asthma medications known as "rescue" inhalers.
And, if you're one of the estimated 40 million people with a respiratory disorder who uses these inhalers, you need to know that after Dec. 31, you won't be able to buy an inhaler that uses chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) propellants anymore. Plus, you need to be aware that the new inhalers are different in some important ways: They won't feel the same when you use them, they have different cleaning requirements, and they may cost you more.
"The main reason for this change is that the new inhalers don't create an ozone loss," explained Dr. Ira Finegold, chief of the division of allergy and clinical immunology at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City.
Chlorofluorocarbon propellants have been linked to destruction of the Earth's ozone layer.
Finegold was scheduled to moderate a weekend session detailing the inhaler changeover at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology's annual meeting, in Seattle.
The inhalers included in the changeover contain albuterol or levalbuterol, active ingredients that help quickly open the airways during an asthma attack. Inhalers that contain corticosteroids -- medications that prevent asthma attacks from occurring -- aren't included in the new mandate.
Until recently, inhalers delivered the medication through the use of chlorofluorocarbon propellants. But, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandated that starting on Jan. 1, 2009, manufacturers would only be allowed to sell inhalers that use more environmentally friendly hydrofluoroalkane (HFA) propellants, which don't damage the ozone layer.
While the medications delivered through HFA inhalers are effective, there are some significant differences between HFA and CFC inhalers that people need to be aware of. They include:
If you still have a CFC inhaler, you can use it after Dec. 31, and you won't be breaking any laws, Finegold said, but you won't be able to buy such an inhaler after that time. And, he said, in many areas of the country, CFC inhaler supplies are already gone and pharmacies have switched to HFA inhalers.
To learn more about the new HFA inhalers, visit the Asthma and Allergy Network Mothers of Asthmatics.
SOURCES: Ira Finegold, M.D., chief, division of allergy and clinical immunology, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, New York City, and past president, American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; Nancy Sander, president and founder, Allergy and Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics; Nov. 8, 2008, presentation, American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology annual meeting, Seattle