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EPA Bans CFC-Based Asthma Inhalers 394

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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  • Re:government idiots (Score:2, Interesting)

    by petteyg359 ( 1847514 ) on Friday September 23, 2011 @06:59PM (#37497416) Homepage

    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:wrong calculation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BitHive ( 578094 ) on Friday September 23, 2011 @07:18PM (#37497640) Homepage

    This contradicts my instincts about the chemistry of our atmosphere. Just who performed these "laboratory studies"? If they were funded by government money in any way then they are probably part of the vast left-wing conspiracy to debunk my gut feelings.

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

    by ravenshrike ( 808508 ) on Friday September 23, 2011 @07:29PM (#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:government idiots (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Friday September 23, 2011 @08:04PM (#37498144) Homepage

    Do you KNOW for a fact that it's an Ozone Depleting Product? You only have what you've been told...which is conflicting at best, in light of the chemistries involved. Given that this is the case...saying it'll affect BILLIONS as you say...that's an appeal to emotion without any real facts. You're not winning anyone over really- and most of the stuff in question is being challenged right now because our country's coming apart because of things like the premise you put forward.

  • Re:government idiots (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Friday September 23, 2011 @08:10PM (#37498198)
    As a physician I know that endotracheal epinephrine does have its uses in severe asthma and status asthmaticus - it is the ultimate bronchodilator; however I have never prescribed it or recommended it for daily use. The side effects can be quite severe, including cardiac arrhythmias leading to death. I can't imagine that this stuff was allowed to be on sale without a prescription in the US.
  • Re:government idiots (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Friday September 23, 2011 @08:16PM (#37498252)

    HFA is a weaker propellant, and has a pretty nasty taste & odor to boot.

    Primatene's problem is complicated, because the ban isn't entirely motivated by love for Mother Earth(tm). The DEA wants Primatene off the market, because it's basically aerosolized ephedrine ready for meth production.

    * If Primatene is reformulated with HFA, it has to be re-approved by the FDA

    * Re-approval would be expensive, and the resulting drug would have only limited patent protection due to massive amounts of prior art.

    * The DEA wants reformulated Primatene to include additional ingredients that (supposedly) won't affect asthmatic users, but will taint the ephedrine so it can't be used for meth production.

    * A new version reformulated to DEA standards WOULD be profitably patentable, but the FDA isn't thrilled about adding chemicals of no benefit to users to a product used by extremely vulnerable people whose breathing is pretty fragile to begin with. They know that somewhere out there are at least a few dozen people likely to die if they use the new formula, and have made it clear that they're going to hold approval of the new version to the highest possible standards and nix it at the *slightest* hint of trouble.

    * Primatene's maker is happy about patentability, but worried about lawsuits. Catch-22.

    It's more complicated than what I wrote above, but that pretty much sums it up. It's the perfect storm of stupid symbolic environmentalism, corporate greed, and the war on drugs. Made worse by the fact that the majority of longterm Primatene users are poor and lack proper health care (people with health insurance use albuterol, unless they have very mild asthma and accidentally go somewhere without their inhaler, at which point they run to Walgreen's and buy Primatene to keep around "just in case"). That's also the main theory of why Advair (combination of a steroid and long-but-slow-acting alpha agonist) has a signficantly higher death rate among poor and minority users with seemingly moderate & controlled asthma -- they get prescriptions for Advair and albuterol, buy the Advair, but skip the albuterol because the new formulation is expensive & they don't need it very often. The problem is, when they DO have an acute attack, all they have on hand is Advair, which isn't suitable as a rescue inhaler, and a small percentage of them end up dying under circumstances where albuterol would have saved them. It's a hard theory to ethically test, but one that explains a bothersome side effect (death) of Advair whose victims are overwhelmingly poor Americans.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 23, 2011 @08:26PM (#37498348)

    For gods sake stop screaming "EPA are idiots" and check for once that epinephrine inhalers are not recommended in general due to the side effects of the DRUG. This is why FDA refused the CFC exception for epinephrine. So yes, other inhalers might be more expensive but a) you get rid of ozone destroying CFC as most countries have meanwhile completely abandoned and results show slowly in the layer. And b) people stop using over-the-counter self medication that is not recommended by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Expert Panel Report 3 asthma guidelines.

    "Although over-the-counter epinephrine inhalers have been on the market for decades and can relieve acute asthma symptoms, these medications are known to have serious side effects when used in higher doses. In addition, they are not recommended by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Expert Panel Report 3 asthma guidelines. As a result, last year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) denied the request for “essential-use” designation for these chlorofluorocarbon (CFC)-propelled devices. The ruling means that epinephrine inhalers will become unavailable in the United States after Dec. 31, 2011.

    According to several lung experts, the coming change provides the perfect opportunity for respiratory patients to talk with their doctor or respiratory therapist about epinephrine’s downsides and learn why it is a good thing these inhalers are being removed from the market."


  • by raddan ( 519638 ) * on Friday September 23, 2011 @08:53PM (#37498532)
    /.'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.
  • Re:government idiots (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mitchell314 ( 1576581 ) on Friday September 23, 2011 @09:14PM (#37498650)
    IIRC, CFCs were mostly notorious for their longevity in terms of causing damage. Whereas there exist active [carbon|water|etc] cycles for ICE emissions.

    But that's a minor point anyways. The big points are:
    A) The environmental scientists, EPA, and co are much much much more knowledgeable than us slashdot plebs, so armchair internet criticism is kinda weak to say in the least.
    B) In reality, issues with pollution are a "death by 1000 cuts" kind of thing. So any one cut [ie source] is probably "insignificant", but they still need to be dealt with. If only to keep the "death by 1000 cuts" from happening. Think tragedy of the commons, stuff like that.

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.