Asthma Inhalers' Green Upgrade Deadline Fast Approaching

asthma inhaler photo

Photo via net_efekt

Good news: The ban on CFC-based asthma inhalers is rapidly approaching. Inhalers are going green and by December 31, all inhalers must be powered by hydrofluoroalkane (HFA) instead of the ozone-harming chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Bad news: This switch is a prime example of when going green causes a big pain in the wallet. The first warning of the switch came a couple years ago. The new asthma inhalers that blast albuterol into the lungs to open airways during an asthma attack will be a lot better for the environment, but they’ll cost far more than current inhalers – between $30 to $60, instead of $5 or $10.

We could say that this is simply paying full cost upfront – that a more expensive green product will avoid future expenses of health and environmental problems. But it’s hard to tell that to the low income families who will have to scrape up a lot more cash to fill prescriptions for asthmatic loved ones.

It could even lead to improper medication use:

Still, specialists worry that some patients will try to save money with a decades-old nonprescription inhaler that contains a different drug, epinephrine, best known by the brand name Primatene Mist — inhalers that also contain ozone-harming CFCs. National asthma guidelines argue against such self-treatment as too risky and less effective than albuterol. The government will allow sale of those over-the-counter inhalers until December 2011 as manufacturers reformulate.


Only one of the new inhalers counts doses used. He's monitoring emergency-room statistics to see if cost-conscious patients trying to squeeze out last drops wind up using empty inhalers.

The switch is ultimately a good thing for everyone, but there will be problems with it for the near future that will hopefully be worked out quickly. Unfortunately, this is one of those areas in which going green is not necessarily easy.

More on CFCs:
Asthma Sufferers Will Soon Help the Ozone
Could Fixing the Ozone Layer's Hole Make Global Warming Worse?

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