Change in Asthma Inhalers Could Make Them Hard to Find

I walk up to the pharmacist’s counter as usual.

“Well, I have good news and bad news,” the guy says, turning to me. “Which do you want first?”

“Oh, no,” I say.

“The good news is I have your inhaler. The bad news is they took yours off the market so I have this small one for you,” he says, holding up an inhaler half the size of my usual one. “They took yours off the market because it was destroying the ozone layer.”

Asthma sufferers like me who rely on fast-acting “rescue inhalers” soon may be scrambling to find the gadgets that help quell their sudden, agonizing attacks, reports a May 18th article.

But this happened to me two months ago.

The inhalers, which propel medicine into users’ airways, are in short supply at some hospitals and pharmacies in Tarrant County where I live and across the country, according to the article.

The shortage centers on albuterol, a generic drug that comes in inhalers like mine that depend on chlorofluorocarbons, or CFS, to thrust out the medicine, the article stated.

In response, some drug companies are already pulling back on production of the familiar devices, said writer Maria Perotin.

Carter High, a pharmacist at Spence Pharmacy in Fort Worth, TX said his drugstore has albuterol in stock, said Perotin.

“We were having to ration them out just a little bit,” said High in a recent interview.

Hospitals across the country began noticing a scarcity of albuterol in December, when the traditional inhalers accounted for about 96 percent of the market, writes Perotin.

Manufacturers have been reluctant to crank out many of the safer-for-the-ozone-layer inhalers yet because pharmacists and consumers are unlikely to use them as long as the cheaper, CFC-based inhalers remain prevalent, wrote Perotin.

“Still, it’s only a matter of time before asthma sufferers will be forced to make the swap,” said Perotin. “Lifelong asthma sufferer Susan Steblein said the price jump could be troubling for many patients, but rescue inhalers are so vital that they’ll have little choice but to pay.”

Steblein, a physical therapist at Baylor All Saints Medical Center in Fort Worth where I’ve been hospitalized a few times for my asthma, keeps inhalers at home, in her car, and anywhere she spends much time, she said.

“The prospect of a shortage is frightening because easy access to an inhaler can halt serious breathing troubles,” said Steblein. “It really has prevented emergency-room trips on more than one occasion.”

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