The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday it is taking a long-expected step and phasing out the production and sale of asthma inhalers using chlorofluorocarbons as a propellant. The chlorofluorocarbons, commonly known as CFCs, were once widely used in a variety of applications, especially as refrigerants, because of their inertness, but they have been shown to damage the Earth's ozone layer, which protects life from the damaging effects of the sun's ultraviolet rays. Most uses of the chemicals have already been abandoned. Medical devices employing them are among the last to be affected.
Four of the seven devices using CFCs are no longer being made, but they are being banned to prevent their reintroduction. The rest will be forbidden after the end of 2013. Patients using inhalers will be able to buy alternative inhalers containing the same drugs but using different propellents — most notably hydrofluoroalkane, which is destroyed in the atmosphere before it can reach the ozone layer.
The devices that are no longer being made and whose sale will be forbidden after June 14 are:
- Tilade Inhaler, made by King Pharmaceuticals
- Alupent Inhalation Aerosol, made by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals
- Azmacort Inhalation Aerosol, made by Abbott Laboratories
- Intal Inhaler, made by King Pharmaceuticals
The three products whose sale will be permitted until Dec. 31, 2013, are:
- Aerobid Inhaler System, made by Forest Laboratories
- Combivent Inhalation Aerosol, made by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals
- Maxair Autohaler, made by Graceway Pharmaceuticals
The agency cautioned against buying any of the banned products over the Internet because they are often mislabeled or do not contain effective ingredients.
Information on inhalers that do not use CFCs can be found here.
— Thomas H. Maugh II