EPA bans many asthma inhalers

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Many asthmatics are finding it harder to breathe, as the Environmental Protection Agency is set to ban many metered-dose inhalers.

According to the EPA website, the sale and distribution of Chlorofluorocarbon-propelled inhalers will be completely phased out  by December of 2013. CFCs deplete the ozone layer, and products containing them are only allowed on the market as long as there is no alternative. Newer inhalers contain hydrofloroalkanes, which do not deplete the ozone layer, as the chemical propellant.

The EPA website says that the EPA works with the Food and Drug Administration to determine which CFC MDI’s are essential to public health and can’t be banned yet.

Many asthmatics will have to find new medication. The switch from CFC to HFA-propelled inhalers has increased the cost of medication for asthma patients and pharmacies.

“Our cost went from around $5 to $10 per inhaler up to as much now as $35 per inhaler,” said Craig Swenson, a pharmacist at the BYU Student Health Center.

Swenson said when the EPA began the shift from CFC to HFA-propelled albuterol medication inhalers, the cost of inhalers doubled.

Corey Cherrington, an international relations major from Clearlake Oaks, Calif., said she was only somewhat familiar with the policy change, and she thinks that it might have been a better idea for the EPA to encourage inhaler manufacturers to start the switch to HFA-propellant inhalers.

“They should maybe tinker with it before they alter the entire situation,” Cherrington said.

Cherrington wasn’t the only student caught off guard after learning about the change in price.

“There’s probably a lot of people out there who can’t afford that and they need this medication daily,” said Brayden Woodall, a history major from Roy. Woodall’s nephew suffers from asthma, and that the switch was less than welcome.

“His dad is a Weber County Sheriff, so he doesn’t make bank compared to a lot of other jobs,” Woodall said.

Swenson said he believes prices will go down as more generic inhalers enter the market.

Beyond the cost, some asthma patients will have to find another medication entirely.

Previously, CFC-propelled epinephrine inhalers were available over-the-counter. HFA-propelled inhalers require a doctor’s prescription, according to the EPA website there are no generic HFA-propelled epinephrine inhalers on the market.

However, asthma patients using albuterol inhalers do not need to worry. The CFC to HFA conversion for albuterol inhalers began when the EPA banned all CFC-propelled albuterol inhalers as of Dec. 31, 2008.

Kristie Weber, a freshman majoring in communications disorders, uses an albuterol rescue inhaler. For Weber, were she a patient prescribed an epinephrine inhaler, there would be extra time as well as money involved.

“I’m actually really relieved,” Weber said. “I’d have to go through a big long process through my health care company and worry about trying to get a new medication.”

A complete list of affected inhalers and dates they will no longer be sold can be found at epa.gov/ozone/title6/exemptions/inhalers.

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