Two Months to the Asthma Inhaler Changeover: What You Need to Know Now

Romelia Walters Health Guide
  • Do You Know That Your Inhaler is Changing?


    Until now, your asthma inhaler has used chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to propel the medicine out of the inhaler for you to breathe into your lungs. However, because these CFCs are harmful to the earth's ozone layer, all albuterol inhalers will now use hydrofluoroalkane (HFA) instead of CFCs to push the medicine out of the inhaler. No CFC albuterol inhalers will be sold or manufactured after December 31, 2008. In spite of this, it's important to know that the medicine in your inhaler is not changing.

    Why the change?

    This change is a result of a Federal Mandate that has actually been in effect for many years. CFCs reduce the amount of ozone in the ozone layer that surrounds and protects the earth against harmful rays. Loss of ozone can increase the risk of skin cancer, cataracts, and other health problems. Replacing the CFCs in your metered-dose inhalers (MDIs) with another substance called hydrofluoroalkane (HFA) will make the environment safe for everyone.

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    But please keep in mind that the medicine in your asthma inhaler will not change. The medicine (albuterol) in the HFA inhalers is exactly the same as the albuterol in the CFC inhalers. It's the substance used to push the medicine out (propellant) of the inhaler that is changing.


    What are the differences between the two inhalers?
    After switching to a HFA-based inhaler, you will notice that it has many similarities to the CFC-based inhalers, but there are also a few differences:

    Similarities of HFA and CFC inhalers:
    • same medicine in the inhaler
    • shape is similar
    • size is similar
    • convenient to use


    New HFA inhalers:
    • Are ozone-friendly.
    • might be slightly different in smell and taste.
    • mist is less forceful and warmer (you went get that cold blast), but the medicine is the same.
    • may need to be cleaned and cared for differently
    (these devices should not get wet, so don't use the float test!).
    • need to be primed before use (follow the instructions that come with the new inhaler).
    • have an expiration date
    (may only be good for 3 to 4 months depending on the inhaler type).
    • may cost more than CFC inhalers.


    How do you get a new HFA inhaler?
    To get a new HFA inhaler you will need a new prescription from your physician. Work with your physician to determine which HFA inhaler is right for you. You will not be able to exchange your current CFC inhaler for an HFA inhaler at the pharmacy; a new prescription is required. Remember: No CFC albuterol inhalers will be sold or manufactured after December 31, 2008. Also, as with any inhaler, it is best to use a holding chamber or spacer with your inhaler. This allows for more medicine to reach your lungs rather than escape into the atmosphere. If you currently don't use a holding chamber or spacer with your inhaler, talk to your doctor about getting one. They really help get more of the medicine you need, where you need it.


    The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has a page with more information.

  • You can also check with Allergy & Asthma Network: Mothers of Asthmatics, who have extensive information about the changeover. You can also reach AANMA at 800-315-8056.

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    Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information. Work with your doctor to get the best medicine for your asthma condition. You can also visit the Q&A section of this site and ask (or answer) a question. One of the experts on the site will try to answer your question as soon as possible.


    Read our past coverage of the HFA Inhaler Changeover


Published On: October 21, 2008