Asthma Sufferers Will Soon Help the Ozone

As an asthma sufferer, you can imagine my surprise when I read in the New York Times that the medication I'm on is going to be phased out by the year 2008. Why? Because of a federally mandated shift due to its effect on the ozone. I have to admit I'm a little nervous about this shift, mainly because it's already creating shortages due to a decline in the production of these "older" inhalers before the "new" ones are ramped up fully. And, because the new inhalers are covered by patents, this also means that they are going to cost more, say $30-$60 each as opposed to $5-$25. Now thankfully I do have health insurance so the latter might be less of a concern of mine, but asthma affects everyone, across all income levels and whether we have health insurance or not. The products being phased out use chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's) to propel the midst of medicine. This chemical has already been phased out of heavy-use applications like refrigeration and air conditioning, leaving inhalers (which once only accounted for 1% of CFC use) the major remaining application. GlaxoSmithKline and Schering-Plough, two major beneficiaries involved in the new medication, say that their patient-assistance programs for low-income people would provide the drug for those that couldn't afford it. Glaxo also said that they would provide two million free inhalers a year, even after the CFC ones are gone. Ivax, which supplies about 30% of the generic CFC inhalers (which are less expensive), says it will no longer sell the product as of July 1st, yet makers of the new HFA inhalers are hesitant to increase production. "They say they fear they will not be able to sell the new products because generics will remain available for three more years," the New York Times reports. Although it looks like these new inhalers will cost a bit more, I feel that I'll spend the money if it means I'm helping to keep our environment healthy while being able to breathe in it. I just hope I'll be able to get a refill when it comes time. Story and photo via ::The New York Times