GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- A common asthma inhaler powered by a new propellant is safe and effective but could come at nearly triple the cost to consumers until a generic version hits the market, according to a review in today's (March 29) New England Journal of Medicine.
Conducted by two university professors and a director for the Food and Drug Administration, the review examines the consequences of switching to hydrofluoroalkane, which is replacing chlorofluorocarbon, or CFC, as a key ingredient in albuterol inhalers designed to relieve asthma. The FDA has ruled that U.S. sales of CFC albuterol inhalers be prohibited after 2008.
About 52 million prescriptions are filled for albuterol each year in the United States, with most containing a generic version of CFC. But because of rising global concerns about CFC's ozone-depleting effects, "medically essential" inhalers are finally joining a list of banned products that started in 1978.
The researchers say their analyses show that inhalers with CFC and the new brands that contain hydrofluoroalkane, or HFA, are equally effective at treating asthma.
"Hopefully, by communicating with health-care professionals, we'll be able to reassure patients," said Leslie Hendeles, the University of Florida professor of pharmacy and pediatrics who spearheaded the review. He worked with Dr. Gene L. Colice, a professor of medicine at The George Washington University School of Medicine, and Dr. Robert J. Meyer, who directs the Office of Drug Evaluation II at the FDA.
Albuterol, one of the medicines that relieves asthma attacks, is the seventh most commonly prescribed drug in the United States. Because it's so widely used, the report predicts Americans will spend an additional $1.2 billion a year on three patented inhaler brands containing the new propellant (Ventolin, ProAir and Proventil) until generic versions reach pharmacies, probably after 2012. Patients who pay for their own medicati
Contact: Linda Homewood
University of Florida