Metered Dose Inhaler Cover

Several different news sites have written on the fact that the FDA is banning all inhalers which use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) by the end of this year. This includes Primatene Mist, currently the only over-the-counter asthma medication in the US. And judging by the comments on these articles, asthmatics are furious.

The whole thing started back in 1988 when the US and several other nations signed the Montreal Protocol—a treaty designed to stop the use of CFCs and other ozone-layer-harming substances. Nothing wrong with that; I think we can all agree the ozone layer’s good to have around. Plus, the Montreal Protocol exempted “essential uses” so for a good while no one worried about inhalers that used CFCs. After all, what’s more essential than continued breathing? But then in 2002, the FDA decided that because inhalers could propel medicine without the use of CFCs they don’t qualify for the “essential use” exemption.

Problem is, the new non-CFC inhalers cost a lot more (anywhere from $50 to $350 a month), and asthma is a disease prevalent among the poor. The CDC estimates that 3,300 Americans die of asthma every year, many because they skimped on or completely went without their medication. It’s troublesome to think how many more will skimp on medication now that the price has risen tremendously.

Some of the comments on these news stories I would describe as simply irritated. For example, “Abe” writes “As an asthma sufferer, I used to be able to buy an albuterol inhaler for less than $20. When the FDA banned the generic inhaler I was using, I had to get a prescription for a nonCFC inhaler which cost $57, and was not very effective. I was supposed to get 200 metered doses, but I probably got about 50 doses from it.” And “Glenn Smith” writes, “The greater good is in providing asthma sufferers easy access to needed medication… Leave these people alone.”

Other comments, however, are a bit more extreme. “wagner.johannah” calls life in the US “fascist” and claims that it will inevitably lead to a revolution that’ll “make the France revelation look like child’s play.” “R.L. Schaefer” calls environmentalism a “New Age religion” which controls the US media, education system, and government and is bent on destroying our freedoms.

But by far the most common type of comment is people recommending that asthmatics buy their medication outside the US in countries such as Canada, the UK, India, Mexico and New Zealand. However, this is unlikely to help the poor who can’t afford to travel outside the States to get their medication.

What do you think? Is banning CFC inhalers helpful because of the positive environmental impact, or harmful because of the negative impact on medical costs? Are people overreacting or is their anger justifiable? Let us know what you think in the comments section.