If you're among the millions of people with asthma or other lung diseases, there's something you should know. Your inhaler is about to change. And that means you'll have to make some changes, too.
The change is the result of a federal mandate that goes into effect January 1st. It bans the use of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which are used as propellants in many inhalers.
Though they've been available for years, it's estimated that four to five million users have yet to switch to a CFC-free inhaler. Soon they won't have a choice. Darcy Ellefson with the South Dakota Asthma Institute says, "The first inhalers that are going to be phased out are the albuterol inhalers and albuterol is traditionally a rescue medicine for asthma, although there are some people with COPD that use it."
In an effort to protect the earth's ozone layer, the new inhalers contain HFA, or hydrofluoroalkanes. Ellefson says, "The medication in the inhaler is the same, the HFA is the propellant. But patients might notice a little bit different on how the inhaler acts."
Just one pump and that difference is obvious. With the old, CFC inhalers, Ellefson says, "It is a hard, fast spray, particle size is a little bit larger with the inhaler. Patients are used to it because they feel it hit the back of their throat."
The spray of an HFA inhaler on the other hand is..."It's a little bit softer and it spreads out more," says Ellefson. "So they're not going to feel that hit on the back of their throat, so lots of patients will say 'I'm not getting the medication."
Actually, because HFA inhalers contain a greater concentration of medicine, you'll be getting more of it. One downfall of the new inhalers however, is the price--almost six times the cost of the old version. Ellefson says, "People that are on albuterol inhalers right now, they can probably still get them, but come January 1st, 2009, they're not going to be available anymore."
They're also going to require a new prescription from your doctor and some training on how to use them.
If you're still not comfortable with using an HFA inhaler, we've set up a link to an online tutorial for you below.
Inhaler Information for Patients
HFA Inhaler Information
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