Environmental Concerns Lead to Inhaler Change

Chlorofluorocarbon inhalers used for asthma and COPD to be phased out by FDA

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) When health officials announce the phase out of a treatment option, it is often due to concerns about patients' health and safety. However, in the case of some soon to be phased-out inhalers, the concern is less about the health of patients and more about the health of the environment.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that by the end of this year, the phase-out of inhalers containing chlorofluorocarbons will be completed.

Patients who use an inhaler to help with breathing should check to see if their product is included in this phase-out.

"Stay informed about your medication."

According to the FDA, inhalers containing chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) will be completely phased out by December 31, 2013 and will no longer be available as the year 2014 begins.

"This effort is to comply with an international treaty to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the worldwide production of numerous substances, including CFCs, which contribute to ozone depletion," the FDA explained.

Inhalers are portable tools that deliver medication straight to the lungs as the patient breathes in. Inhalers are often used by patients with asthma, a chronic inflammation and narrowing of the airways, and patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition that causes progressive damage to the lungs.

According to the FDA, over 25 million people in the US have asthma, and 15 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD, making inhalers critical devices to the lives of many people in the US.

Most inhalers containing CFCs have already been phased-out ahead of this final stage, but two products are still available — Combivent Inhalation Aerosol and Maxair Autohaler.

In an FDA news release, Badrul Chowdhury, MD, director of the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Rheumatology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research explained that the phase-out process has been a long one.

“CFCs were used as propellants to move the drug out of inhalers so that patients can inhale the medicine. For more than two decades, the FDA and EPA have collaborated to phase-out CFCs in inhalers — a process that included input from the public, advisory committees, manufacturers, and stakeholders," said Dr. Chowdhury.

According to the FDA, the albuterol CFC inhaler — previously the most commonly used inhaler product — was phased out in 2008 and replaced with inhalers that rely on hydrofluoroalkanes instead of CFCs to propel the medication.

The FDA noted that there are many different types of safe and effective inhalers available, and that patients currently using the soon to be phased-out Combivent Inhalation Aerosol and Maxair Autohaler should talk to their doctor about getting a new prescription.

Review Date: 
October 24, 2013
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013