24 September 2011

Can we have some sanity on the inhaler story please?

Right now, the US press is full of stories about how asthma sufferers are going to be bankrupted because Barack Obama’s EPA has banned cheap asthma inhalers containing CFCs, in order to benefit big pharma.

Being asthmatic, I happen to know something about this subject.

First off, the OTC inhalers which are no longer going to be available are pure epinephrine inhalers. Doctors in most countries don’t even prescribe those any more; they prefer other drugs, the most common of which is salbutamol or albuterol, sold under the famous brand name Ventolin.

In tests, albuterol is as effective as epinephrine, with fewer side effects and fewer repeat doses required. Epinephrine is a horrible drug, and anyone taking it for asthma should be switching anyway.

Albuterol is a generic. You can pick up an inhaler for $9 at Walmart. All you need is a prescription. If the Walmart inhalers weren’t available you could buy generics online from any number of other sources for $16, just do a search and see. Nobody is going to be bankrupted because they suddenly need to buy albuterol instead of epinephrine.

All the albuterol inhalers switched to CFC-free several years ago. My experience is that they work just as well; however, they may feel as if they aren’t working because you no longer get that cool, wet feeling in your lungs. But you know what? You get used to it.

Although it’s unlikely, it’s possible you might not get on well with albuterol. If so, there are other generic asthma drugs available. There will even be a CFC-free epinephrine eventually. It’s not available yet because the pharma companies dragged their feet submitting it for FDA approval.

As to the blame for this, as you might have gathered this is the final stage of a long phasing out of CFCs. The process was started when the US signed the Montreal Protocol in 1987. The big government President responsible wasn’t Obama, it was Ronald Reagan.

So in a nutshell:

  • Ronald Reagan made the decision.
  • The drug companies had over 20 years to get ready.
  • They didn’t, largely because there are better drugs.
  • The better drugs cost $9 per inhaler.
  • This is a non-story being spun like crazy.

© mathew 2017