Prescription replacements necessary for OTC asthma inhalers

U.S. health care providers should begin issuing replacement prescriptions now for patients with asthma that use Primatene Mist (Armstrong Pharmaceuticals Inc.), the FDA advises.

The only over-the-counter epinephrine inhaler for temporary relief of occasional mild asthma symptoms will no longer be made or sold after Dec. 31, 2011, because it contains chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as a propellant.

No CFC-containing epinephrine inhalers will be available after year's end as part of U.S. compliance with an international agreement to phase-out substances that deplete the ozone layer.

Many inhaler manufacturers have replaced CFCs with the environmentally friendly propellant hydrofluoroalkane (HFA) since the FDA first announced the phase-out date in Nov. 2008. However, currently no HFA replacement versions of OTC epinephrine inhalers exist.

Clinicians should also be prepared to counsel patients about payment options, as replacement inhalers may be more expensive, the FDA warned. Be sure to inform patients that many drug companies have patient-assistance programs that make medications available at low or no-cost.

Patients concerned about finance can also contact the Partnership for Prescription Assistance online, or by calling 1-888-477-2669.

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