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CFC vs HFA Inhalers: Are You Ready for the Switch?

By July 24, 2008

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If you have asthma, COPD or other lung conditions, you are probably familiar with the CFC inhaler used for the delivery of your asthma medication. For those of you who haven't read my previous blog post about this topic, CFC inhalers will no longer be produced, marketed or sold in the United States after December 31, 2008 due to the propellant being harmful to the environment. The HFA inhaler, a costly alternative, will be replacing CFC inhalers beginning January 1, 2009, a move that has caused public outrage.

CFC stands for chlorofluorocarbons, which is the propellant that is used to deliver the medication from the inhaler to your lungs. Although safe (for people) and effective, they are believed to be harmful to the ozone layer which protects the earth from the powerful rays of the sun. Hydrofluoroalkane, on the other hand, is the propellant used in the HFA-propelled inhalers and is thought to be more ozone-friendly.

So, if the HFA inhalers are safer to use and just as effective as the CFC inhaler, why, then, are people so angry? There appears to be as many answers to this question as there are minutes in the day.

Many people are claiming that the untoward side effects from using HFA inhalers are bothersome and even dangerous. Those who are allergic to corn have reported extreme shortness of breath and allergic type reactions to the ethanol used in several of the HFA inhalers. Users of the inhalers also say that the HFA inhalers clog more easily, taste funny and don't work as well. Visit the Consumer Affairs website for a more complete picture of common complaints about this product reported by consumers.

While many people are reporting annoying side effects, they are also finding that they do not get the same relief from the HFA inhaler as they do from their old, faithful CFC inhaler. The manufacturers emphasize that because HFA's deliver a finer mist than CFC's, this is often misinterpreted as the inhaler not working properly. The finer mist is supposed to allow for for greater absorption of particles by the lungs which should provide faster relief. But users say that this is simply not true, that in fact, they must take many more puffs off their HFA inhaler to get the same relief.

Another issue, especially to those without health insurance, is the cost. Like any new brand name, pharmaceutical product, HFA inhalers are quite expensive, ranging in price from $30 to $60. This is a big difference from the $5 to $25 that consumers paid for their old inhalers. In times of economic insecurity, the cost can be a matter of life and death, as those on a limited income may not be able to afford the price increase.

Only time will tell how this drama will unfold, but if you want to get involved by taking a proactive stance there are some things that you can do do in the meantime:

1. Sign the petition to keep your CFC inhalers from being banned.

2. Report side effects of the HFA inhaler to the FDA.

Do you currently pay for your own medications and prescriptions? If so, learn how you can get a free HFA inhaler and HFA starter kit.

July 24, 2008 at 9:46 pm
(1) Lynn says:

CFC, ethanol free: albuterol inhaler is and should remain an option for those unable to tolerate the HFA formulation-for many of us that is the only choice!

July 25, 2008 at 1:42 pm
(2) copd says:

I totally agree that there should be another option for those who cannot tolerate HFA inhalers. If not CFC because of the dangers to the ozone, then something else comparable. Thank you for your comment.

July 25, 2008 at 11:24 pm
(3) Alan says:

I just reported my side effects from the HFA inhaler to the link that you gave in the blog. Thanks, never would have known that I could do that if it weren’t for your site.

September 16, 2008 at 4:26 pm
(4) stephanie says:

The complaint link is broken.

I hope enough people make enough noise to get CFC inhalers back. It’s a matter of life or death.

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