Primatene Mist - Your Last Inexpensive OTC Inhaler Going Away

  • Primatene Mist, a stalwart of over the counter asthma inhalers, is heading toward oblivion in a few short weeks. A few years ago, Congress passed a law in the United States, as part of a global initiative to save the environment from harmful chlorofluorocarbons, known as CFCs, which have been shown to harm the ozone layer. CFC were used to power the spray in things like hairspray, as well as asthma inhalers.


    This law affected prescription inhalers, both the long-acting and the short-acting (rescue) type, fairly quickly. By the year 2009, all of the prescription CFC inhalers had been replaced by HFA inhalers. This has resulted in significant increases in costs to both insurance companies and asthma sufferers. Before I had insurance, I was paying around $150/month or more for 2 inhalers!

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    As a result, more people than ever turned to the lone remaining CFC inhaler available, and over-the-counter version of epinephrine called Primatene Mist, which is similar to a typical rescue inhaler that dispenses albuterol, another bronchodilator.


    A Ban Is Looming


    The government's intent was always to prohibit the selling of Primatene Mist too, but legal appeals kept it on the shelves until now. However, as of December 31, 2011, Primatene Mist will no longer be available. And neither will any other affordable OTC option for asthma sufferers!


    There has been some recent action in Congress to further appeal the decision, but several respiratory-related groups have recently lobbied lawmakers to go forward with the Primatene Mist ban, in the interest of better asthma treatment. These groups included: the American Association for Respiratory Care, the American Thoracic Society, American Lung Association, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, National Home Oxygen Patients Association, and COPD Foundation.


    Why Primatene Mist May Not Be Safe


    Experts believe that, although Primatene Mist is safe enough when used according to its labeling, it is often used too much or inappropriately in the real world. Primatene Mist is nothing more than a semi-effective rescue inhaler, which provides temporary symptom relief, but does nothing to treat the disease itself.


    A better approach is to use inhaled steroids as controller medications to prevent asthma symptoms from occurring in the first place. But that assumes you have access to such medications, which is not always easy if you don't have a physician, or affordable, if you don't have insurance. Trust me, I understand the issues, as I was uninsured for more than 12 years!


    What Can You Do?


    First of all, asthma should never be left untreated, even if it is mild asthma. Uncontrolled/untreated asthma can have serious health repercussions down the road. So, if you have asthma, you should be under the care of a physician for it, and you should be taking some kind of medication.


    There may be some over the counter alternatives to prescription asthma medication. Allergies are often the underlying cause of asthma, so if you have the allergic type of asthma, you might find taking allergy medicine will go a long way toward keeping your asthma symptoms at bay. Many allergy medicines are affordable and available over the counter.


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    There are also some promising alternative or complementary therapies emerging for asthma. I discussed that here:


    But the most effective asthma treatment is believed by experts to be an inhaled steroid, or in severe cases, an inhaled steroid combined with a bronchodilator. And these medications are pricey. So what to do if you don't have insurance coverage and/or the money to pay for them?


    Check out this post on 5 Ways to Save Money on Those Expensive New HFA Inhalers


    In Summary


    Primatene Mist will no longer be available, come 2012. So if you've been using it to treat your asthma, you'd be wise to start making alternative plans right now. Don't wait until your asthma is out of control.

Published On: December 08, 2011