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Ozone-Depleting Inhalers Being Phased Out
Date:5/30/2008

Deadline is Dec. 31, but FDA urges asthma patients to switch to eco-friendly versions now

FRIDAY, May 30 (HealthDay News) -- Asthma inhalers that contain the drug albuterol to relax the airways also contain chemicals that harm the ozone layer. And these inhalers won't be available after this year, so U.S. health officials are urging patients to switch to alternative inhalers now.

Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, are widely used to propel inhaled drugs into the lungs. However, products containing CFCs are being phased out, because the chemicals damage the Earth's protective ozone layer. CFC inhalers are being replaced by inhalers powered by HFAs, or hydrofluoroalkanes, which are ozone-friendly.

The change to HFA-powered inhalers has been in the works for several years, but the FDA issued an advisory on Friday, urging patients still using CFC inhalers to switch now. Inhalers containing CFCs will not be available after Dec. 31.

FDA officials said people with respiratory problems, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, may need some time to acclimate to HFA-based inhalers.

"There are 52 million prescriptions written for albuterol inhalers each year in the United States," Dr. Badrul Chowdhury, director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Division of Pulmonary and Allergy Products, said during a teleconference. Albuterol is used to treat shortness of breath in people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, he noted.

Chowdhury said that approximately 65 percent of inhaler users have already switched to HFA inhalers.

"These new handlers may taste and feel different than the current CFC inhalers," he said. "In addition, HFA inhalers may feel softer than CFC inhalers."

Also, patients using HFA inhalers will have to prime and clean them to prevent the buildup of albuterol in the inhalers' nozzle. This buildup could block the medicine from reaching t
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