Beginning this year, inhaled beta-agonist asthma medications had to switch to a more environmentally friendly form.
MedPage Today has a special report on the issue, one where most primary care doctors were not well educated on.
Apparently, the new inhalers, which use hydrofluoroalkane (HFA) as a propellant, have been attracting a litany of patient complaints, including that the medicine tastes funny, the propellant isn't as strong, it's less effective, and it costs much more.
Some of the patient concerns are valid, and some aren't. For instance, a study in the NEJM showed that, "patients using the two types of inhalers showed similar bronchodilation and increases in forced expiratory volume," as well as noting that, "no increase in hospitalization rates for respiratory problems with HFA versus CFC albuterol."
But, despite the data, doctors are telling patients to take more puffs of the HFA inhaler to combat the myth that these new inhalers "aren't as strong."
What's indisputable is the cost. Old inhalers run between $5 and $10, while the HFA inhalers costs anywhere from $30 to $60. None are generic, with patents expiring in 2012.
Which leads me to wonder if the pharmaceutical lobby abetted the environmentalists in pushing through with the transition.
It's an interesting piece, and I recommend anyone using these type of asthma inhalers to read it in its entirety.
General info - Pro Air HFA and Ventolin HFA are the generic albuterol inhalers. Proventil HFA is the brand albuterol inhaler. Everything is HFA since last year because of the propellant change.