ADVERTISEMENT

Breathe easy? Green inhalers are good for the environment, but are they good for asthma sufferers?

Good news and bad news for asthma patients who use inhalers: You won't be expelling Earth-warming chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's) into the atmosphere  with every puff, but you will pay six times as much for your green medical device.

Until now, inhalers have been powered by CFCs, which destroy the ozone layer. On Dec. 31, all albuterol inhalers will be propelled by hydrofluoroalkane (HFA), which is better for the environment, the Associated Press reports. But it will cost you: $30 to $60, compared  with $5 to $10 now.

Albuterol is used on an emergency basis to open the airways of asthma patients suffering from severe wheezing. They take other, daily meds to control their asthma.

There are three green albuterol inhalers: GlaxoSmithKline's Ventolin HFA, Schering Plough's Proventil HFA and Teva Specialty Pharmaceuticals' ProAir HFA. Another, Sepracor's Xopenex HFA, contains a similar medication called levalbuterol.

Critics have questioned the need for the change, arguing that the steeper cost will hurt the disproportionately poor patients who need inhalers and that they are harder to use than the old kind. Users feel a softer puff, rather than the cold blast of the CFC-powered inhalers, and they need to cleaned (but not soaked) weekly to prevent clogging according to the AP.

"There's still significant confusion," pediatric allergist Harvey Leo of the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital told the AP. "Patients will tell you, 'I don't feel the puff anymore."'

Image by iStockphoto/RMAX

Share this Article:

Comments

You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.
Scientific American Back To School

Back to School Sale!

12 Digital Issues + 4 Years of Archive Access just $19.99

Order Now >

X

Email this Article

X