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EPA Bans CFC-Based Asthma Inhalers 394

Posted by timothy
from the next-they-come-for-the-glasses-tape dept.
bonch writes "The EPA has banned over-the-counter asthma inhalers as part of an agreement with other nations to avoid using chlorofluorocarbons, a substance once used in aerosol sprays. Alternative albuterol inhalers cost almost three times as much as the $20 epinephrine inhalers sold by online retailers."
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EPA Bans CFC-Based Asthma Inhalers

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  • government idiots (Score:4, Insightful)

    by p51d007 (656414) on Friday September 23, 2011 @05:54PM (#37497364)
    Government, EPA...what a bunch of idiots. Here we have an inexpensive asthma product, that helps MILLIONS of people each day, and now thanks to the government, it will costs those people MORE for a different product. One of the scariest things ever said was... "I'm from the federal government, and I'm here to HELP you".
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 23, 2011 @05:57PM (#37497392)

      Corporations, what a bunch of idiots. Here we have an ozone depleting product, that will affect BILLIONS of people each day, and now thanks to the government, it will save those people MORE by keeping intact the ozone layer. Once of the scariest things ever said was... "I'm from the corporation, and I'm here to SAVE the planet".

      • Re:government idiots (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ravenshrike (808508) on Friday September 23, 2011 @06:29PM (#37497766)

        The amount of CFCs pumped into the atmosphere by asthma inhalers is negligible at best. Even if every person on the planet used one, which they don't.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Corporations, what a bunch of idiots. Here we have an ozone depleting product, that will affect BILLIONS of people each day, and now thanks to the government, it will save those people MORE by keeping intact the ozone layer. Once of the scariest things ever said was... "I'm from the corporation, and I'm here to SAVE the planet".

        Yeah, fuck those asthma sufferers. Even though there are more pollutants pumped into the atmosphere from running your car for less than a second, those people deserve to have the medicine they depend on to breath cost more. If their combined medicinal use affects the lungs of even an ANT in a million years, I want them strung up and caned.

        Now watch me light up this joint.

      • by WorBlux (1751716)
        1. Ozone regenerates 2. It's a very small amount, and is less toxic to the human body than alternatives.
        • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday September 23, 2011 @08:25PM (#37498716) Homepage Journal

          Ozone regenerates but only accumulates when CFCs aren't destroying it. CFCs in inhalers are just one part of the CFC pollution that we backed away from over several decades. Most of the sources individually are a very small amount, but combined they deplete the ozone layer. Which causes increases in cancer, not just among humans but among other animals around the world. Each small source has its claim to exemption, and some worked those claims for many years while alternatives were developed. This single last brand using CFCs is cheaper because it's generating pollution its competitors don't, which simply externalizes its costs from asthma people to cancer people affected by the ozone depletion.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by hairyfeet (841228)

            Yes but there is one little thing everyone seems to be missing...this will KILL PEOPLE DEAD and that is NOT any 'guessing" or "estimates" or anything else but a cold hard fact. We already have too damned many old folks in this country and poor folks that have to choose between having medicine and food, you think TRIPLING the cost is just hunky dory?

            Either the government should be force to eat the difference or they should STFU, simple as that. this isn't some theoretical thing here, a severe asthma attack

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by petteyg359 (1847514)

      If the asthma is aggravated by the atmosphere, and the supposed relief mechanism just puts more crap in the atmosphere, then that relief mechanism is doing it bass-ackwards.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lgw (121541)

        The amount of "crap in the the atmosphere" from all inhalers ever made, combined, is trivial. These are the only OTC rescue inhalers on the market. People will die from this bullshit.

        • by causality (777677)

          People will die from this bullshit.

          That's usually what it takes to get bureaucrats to take notice. It doesn't matter how predictable the problems are. Once somebody dies, suddenly they see something as a problem.

          I am ignorant about the inner workings of these inhalers. So I am curious, what's the reason they cannot simply use compressed air to provide the aerosol? Why must it be a CFC or albuterol?

          • by cvtan (752695)
            You can't put enough compressed air in a container to work well at a reasonable pressure. CFCs and other chemicals of that type (propane in propane tanks for the BBQ are another example) become liquids at room temperature and moderate pressures (something like 60-100psi). As the gas above the liquid is used, the pressure in the container remains constant (vapor pressure) until the liquid is depleted and only then does the pressure start going down. This works much better for propelling out a fixed dose o
          • by raddan (519638) *
            /.'ers are being characteristically reactionist. I use the new inhalers, and have done so for several years now. This story should be modded anti-government flamebait.

            Furthermore, epinephrine inhalers are less effective than salabuterol inhalers, with more side effects (epinephrine can be very unpleasant). That's the real reason they're going away-- reformulating them for a new propellant is not worth the cost.
        • by EdZ (755139)

          These are the only OTC rescue inhalers on the market. People will die from this bullshit.

          In the US, maybe. In the UK, I've never even seen an epinephrine inhaler, salbutamol (albuterol) is the standard.

        • Re:government idiots (Score:5, Informative)

          by Cyberax (705495) on Friday September 23, 2011 @06:28PM (#37497744)

          Not really. Right now inhalers are among the most significant remaining sources of CFCs.

          The other remaining source is Halon fire suppression systems. Halon is no longer produced, but remaining stocks are still in use.

          • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

            Not really. Right now inhalers are among the most significant remaining sources of CFCs.

            The other remaining source is Halon fire suppression systems. Halon is no longer produced, but remaining stocks are still in use.

            Of course they are, because every other source has been eliminated.

            • by Cyberax (705495)

              And that's good. Though the concentration of CFCs in the atmosphere has peaked, it still is significant to cause large ozone hole in the Antarctic region.

              Banning remaining CFC sources will accelerate the healing of ozone layer. And it's not like there are no good replacements available.

              • by 0111 1110 (518466) on Friday September 23, 2011 @07:13PM (#37498230)

                Banning remaining CFC sources will accelerate the healing of ozone layer. And it's not like there are no good replacements available.

                Do you have asthma? I do, and I find that the non-CFC HFA inhalers don't work for me. I have resorted to (illegally) ordering CFC inhalers from India and/or using a portable nebulizer, which is both less effective and less portable than the inhalers with propellants.

                The problem with the HFA inhalers is that they don't propel the medicine strongly enough and the propellant itself may even be an irritant to some people. I have had times where it has at least seemed to make my asthma worse, not better.

                OTOH, I'm not a big fan of primatene mist either. It is dangerous and actually causes pain in my chest. Although in an emergency it is often the only option available other than the ER for someone with asthma.

                • Yes, I have severe chronic asthma.

                  First, before you do ANYTHING else, confess your sins to your doctor and TELL HIM ABOUT THE CHEST PAIN from the Primatene Mist. This may be a warning sign of cardiac (heart) issues developing. Epinephrine WILL hit the heart, far harder than albuterol does.

                  The proper way to use Primatene Mist in an asthma emergency is to take the puffs and then head for the emergency room. Or call for an ambulance. Primatene Mist buys you about 15 minutes of transit time. That's all it

          • by Baloroth (2370816)
            They may be the most significant source, but the question is whether they're producing significant amounts of CFCs. From what I've heard, the ozone hole is beginning to close, and CFC inhalers are/ were still being used. While it's true that CFCs would ideally not be used period, a certain very carefully measured usage, which saves lives, might not be damaging. The problem is widespread usage, not small amounts.
    • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday September 23, 2011 @08:21PM (#37498686) Homepage Journal

      Primatene sucks, and barely works. It's cheap because its costs have been paid off for decades, and it's just a brand. But millions of people don't use it, even though it's cheap, because it sucks. The EPA isn't just protecting the health of the rest of us by protecting the Ozone Layer from CFCs - it's flushing this crap product out of the market. The asthma industry has had decades to switch away from CFCs, longer than practically all others. And even this final shutdown has been coming for 3 years, plenty of time to switch.

      If you want to be angry at a government agency, be angry at the FDA which requires the non-CFC version, that actually works, to be a prescription. Which drives up its costs, and lets the doctor industry take their cut for peddling it. There's no reason the non-CFC version should cost 50-100% more than the OTC version. It's the doctor/drug cartel that keeps this stuff so profitable and expensive.

      What's idiotic is the kneejerk attacks on government agencies that protect us, without knowing anything about what you're talking about. "The government" isn't some monolithic entity. The EPA controls damaging substances to protect us

  • It may be an outrage to you but is it justifiable if you look at the big picture? Sure some may die because of these decisions but how many more die indirectly from producing and releasing these gasses?

    • gee, one you can count, the other you can't. And by the way, as an asthma sufferer, fuck you. Try sleeping when breathing through a straw, see how it feels. This is a money grab by those with a prescription pad. Otherwise, why not produce Ephedrine OTC inhalers with environmentally friendlier gasses? Oh right, money.
  • Very Old News (Score:5, Informative)

    by nbetcher (973062) <nbetcher@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Friday September 23, 2011 @06:07PM (#37497488)

    This is actually extremely old news. A treaty was signed over a decade ago to ban various uses of CFCs in phases. The OTC epinephrine inhalers were pulled off of the market by the manufacturer some time ago due to a different reason (which I forget), then they decided to not restart production on it because CFC inhalers would be banned as of 1/1/2010.

    Anyone that has asthma will tell you that things dramatically changed for them in 2010 when their old albuterol (fast-acting, for emergencies) inhalers were reformulated to not include CFCs (dubbed HFA, aka Hydrofluoroalkane) . Most HFA-using patients state that they cannot "feel" the aerosol or that it doesn't work nearly as well as the CFC-based ones.*

    Point being, CFC inhalers haven't been around for a couple of years and we knew they were going away over a decade ago!

    (*From my professional experience.)

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Oh, so that's what happened. I noticed that the inhaler I got about that time didn't seem to be doing anything. At least not during inhalation. I remember back during the 80s that it was a lot more obvious that I was getting medicine than it is these days.

      I also noticed that the inhalers don't seem to last as long as they used to. Not sure if that's at all related, but I find lately that invariably when I need an inhaler it's gone bad because I haven't used it in a few months. Which was never a case when I

      • I noticed that the inhaler I got about that time didn't seem to be doing anything. At least not during inhalation.

        Perhaps they can mix in a little Capsicum Annuum [wikipedia.org] to give it a little kick... :-)

    • Anyone that has asthma will tell you that things dramatically changed for them in 2010 when their old albuterol (fast-acting, for emergencies) inhalers were reformulated to not include CFCs (dubbed HFA, aka Hydrofluoroalkane) . Most HFA-using patients state that they cannot "feel" the aerosol or that it doesn't work nearly as well as the CFC-based ones.*

      There are a number of significant differences between CFC and HFC inhalers. One is that most drugs are less soluble in HFCs than CFCs; newer HFCs inhalers are generally formulated using a suspension of solid particles in propellant (this may have something to do with the clogging & self-depletion problems reported with HFC inhalers). There might also be issues given the density differences between CFCs and HFCs -- I would expect the heavier gas would do a better job carrying the medication deeper down

  • by Montressor (34631) on Friday September 23, 2011 @06:07PM (#37497492)

    TFA doesn't explain why changing the propellant chemical means that the active medical ingredient has to change as well. Why can't epinephrine be delivered via a non-CFC propellant?

  • Alternative albuterol inhalers cost almost three times as much as the $20 epinephrine inhalers sold by online retailers."

    The worst part is that epinephrine you can get any time you want (like, say, in the middle of an asthma attack), but albuterol requires a prescription, which means schlepping to a doctor with all the associated costs and inconveniences.

    Albuterol works a lot better, sure, but sometimes - when you need an inhaler and you need it NOW - its nice to know the good old Primatine Mist is availabl

  • From TFA:

    The action is part of an agreement signed by the U.S. and other nations to stop using substances that deplete the ozone layer, a region in the atmosphere that helps block harmful ultraviolet rays from the Sun.

    So now that global warming has been exposed as a fraud we're supposed to be scared of the Sun as well? Leave it to tree huggers to care more about ozone, which is poisonous, than human life.

    I don't know about you but I'm perfectly capable of purchasing sunscreen. For the amount of money I'd

    • by Cyberax (705495)

      "So now that global warming has been exposed as a fraud we're supposed to be scared of the Sun as well? Leave it to tree huggers to care more about ozone, which is poisonous, than human life."

      I have a wonderful UV lamp that I use to disinfect stuff. Would you care to sit a few days under it?

    • I... I... I don't know. Earth-shattering irony? Ignorance on an epic scale? Someone help me out here.

    • The ignorance displayed in your post is stunning. Harmful UV rays harm a lot more than just human beings. It impacts plant life and other animals as well, and in a very negative way.

  • Oh great.

    I used to be able to count on getting to any 24hr pharmacy (and most local 24hr supermarkets) and purchasing Primatene Mist (or an equivalent) if suffering an asthma attack.

    So now I have to stock up on the works-less-well-for-me albuterol from a doctor's prescription? And if I am out have to run to the ER to get the now-only-available-by-prescription medicines? (Yes, yes: In a perfect world I would never run out, and always have a Rx solution on hand, but sh*t happens.)

    Not. Happy.

    I would rather the

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday September 23, 2011 @07:27PM (#37498360) Homepage

      Or you could just see your doctor, maybe manage your asthma better. Maybe have a prescription available in your wallet if you really need it. If you're running to the 24 hour pharmacy in the middle of the night chances are you're doing it wrong.

      Get a peak flow meter, learn how to use it. Works great for most people and gives them a 12-24 hour window of alert time before you really get symptomatic.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      So wait... your management of your asthma is to drive to a 24 hour store to buy an inhaler if you have an attack?

      I assume the way you manage fires in your kitchen is to drive to a 24 hour store to buy a fire extinguisher if a fire breaks out.

      If you have a condition serious enough to require intervention, you need to keep a prescription on you or near you at all times. I note you say you do "in a perfect world" but come on. This has been coming for many years but it was only a matter of time - salbutamol is

  • The cost of unleaded gasoline was astronomical in the early 1970s - because unleaded gasoline was produced in relatively small batches and could not compete at scale with leaded gasoline. When leaded gasoline was banned, we were all told that we'd be paying more for gasoline. In fact, the price of unleaded gasoline production fell. The important thing is that the mean blood lead level in 1975 was 15.5 g/dl. The mean blood lead level today is less than 2g/dl. Urban IQs are rising. What does this mean for phasing CFCs out of inhalers? I don't know, but the people who scream every time a new technology has to make transition to scale tend not to make the world any better.
    • by causality (777677) on Friday September 23, 2011 @06:59PM (#37498092)

      The important thing is that the mean blood lead level in 1975 was 15.5 g/dl. The mean blood lead level today is less than 2g/dl.

      That can't be right. That would be what, about a third of a kilogram of lead in the average person's body?

      The average adult has about 5 pints of blood in their body. A pint is a little more than half a liter. So that's approximately 2.5 liters * 10 * 15.5, which works out to about 387 grams of lead. I think that's enough to kill a blue whale.

      From reading the Wikipedia article on lead poisoning, I assume you meant micrograms.

  • by assemblerex (1275164) on Friday September 23, 2011 @06:27PM (#37497734)
    The new inhaler with no insurance? $60. Before? $30
    Less pressure, not as effective in getting the meds to my lungs.
    I now order them from mexico, same old good stuff that works.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The new inhaler with no insurance? $60. Before? $30
      Less pressure, not as effective in getting the meds to my lungs.
      I now order them from mexico, same old good stuff that works.

      Aren't you happy that you are able to sacrifice your health, though, for the good of the planet?

      Comrade Captain Planet demands we much all offer our lives for him.

    • by AbRASiON (589899) *

      Athsmatic here in Australia - and AGREED! They did this to us nearly 10 years ago and the difference is noticable.
      A friend brought one back from Greece still with CFC in it 5 years ago and I still remember getting a hit from it, it's SO MUCH BETTER. The non CFC variant is simply not as good - no it's not a placebo, it's been 10 damn years.

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday September 23, 2011 @06:31PM (#37497780) Homepage Journal

    being propagated through the media. Probably written by some anti regulation type; or it's plain shoddy 'reporting'.

    a) There is a non- CFC primatine mist coming out.

    http://www.empr.com/update-on-primatene-mist-discontinuation/article/208381/ [empr.com]

    b) this has been a phased roll out since 2008

    c) albuterol was the first to be regulated to be CFC free.

    d) The corporation the make CFC products stalled in making a replacement in order to maximize there profits, and probably to make regulation seem bad.

    e) the only impact CFC inhalers, not over the cuonter inhalers. So you will see OTC inhalers, probably soon.

    Whoever wrote that article should be slapped up side the head for sowing discontent in the populace with factual lies.

    • a) There is a non- CFC primatine mist coming out.

      http://www.empr.com/update-on-primatene-mist-discontinuation/article/208381/ [empr.com] [empr.com]

      That article says, 'pending FDA approval'. Last article I read said the FDA was going to require an [expensive] clinical trial before approving it, and the manufacturer didn't have the revenue stream to support that. But, good for them for making it FDA's problem. If the FDA has backed down, good for them.

      e) the only impact CFC inhalers, not over the cuonter inhalers. So

  • The high price of the albuterol inhalers in the USA is due to the control of manufacturing of the propellant by the patent holder. Albuterol inhalers sold in India and made in Australia by well-known brands cost about $2 becasue they don't care about the CFC in the propellant.
  • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Friday September 23, 2011 @09:26PM (#37498960)
    My Dad died of COPD in 2005, and we knew about the upcoming CFC ban years before that. I can only assume that the makers of Primatine Mist had a replacement ready to go 10 years ago...the only reason to pretend they don't is to get a bump from customers hoarding their product before the 'drop dead' date.

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