The Inhaler Changeover

Sloane Miller Health Guide
  • I knew it was coming: the change in my Albuterol rescue inhaler.

     

    I had gotten a letter from my insurance company stating that my inhaler was going to change in 2008. The American Lung Association states it thusly: "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has told makers of albuterol inhalers that they must stop using the ozone-depleting propellants called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which send albuterol into the lungs. Manufacturers have already begun to make or ramp up production of CFC-free inhalers, also called hydrofluoroalkane (HFA) inhalers, in advance of the December 31, 2008 deadline. This decision resulted from the United States' participation in the Montreal Protocol, a 1987 international treaty to eliminate the production and consumption of ozone-depleting chemicals."

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    So, the medication isn't changing, the delivery system is, and for an excellent reason. This is one small way I can help the environment.

     

    So, goodbye CFCs, hello HFAs.

     

    But.

     

    I don't think I realized how attached I'd become to my inhaler; to the inhalant of my inhaler. It has a particular sound and smell as it's released from the chamber. It has a very specific taste that registers at the back of my tongue. There's a whole process of inhaling a medication deep into your lungs, holding your breath and feeling it get into the very bottom of the cavity, quickly squashing the wheezing and constriction. Then there are the shakes that start within a minute or so of taking it, for me at least. But when I'm that sick, I don't mind -- tremble on I say.

     

    This all became much clearer when I went for a refill inhaler the other day. It's not that I ran out of my current inhaler; I hardly use it, but I make it a point to keep extra inhalers around. There's usually a spare in the car, a spare in each purse, an extra in my gym bag and in my dop kit. Basically, I make sure there is always one within easy reach that hasn't expired. [REMINDER: each fall and spring I do a medicine check, anything that's expired or near expiry gets a refill. Go check now, it's never too early].

     

    My neighborhood pharmacist (yes I know them by first name) handed me an inhaler from a company called "Armstrong". The box had a warning that this product wouldn't be available past December 31, 2008.

     

    Who cared? I didn't want something called "Armstrong". I wanted my usual inhaler, the Warrick generic of Albuterol.

     

    "What's this?"

     

    "A generic inhaler," the pharmacist said.

     

    "Uh, generic is fine but this isn't MY generic. Where's Warrick?"

     

    She shrugged, took the offending box and went into the back. "We have a couple left. And then we probably wont get any more because they're phasing them out."

     

    Phasing them out! "Yes, please I'll take one," I said, hatching plans to go back next week for another spare one.

     

    My resistance to a different generic brand that still has CFCs surprised me. This wasn't even the switch over, yet.

     

    I think NOW would be a good time to have a sit-down with my friendly pulmonologist, whom I call by his first name too, and discuss how these changes will affect me, if at all. AAFA.org has some excellent recommendations about how to update your asthma care plans and the ramifications of the inhaler transition.

Published On: October 01, 2007