Breathe deeply

A couple weeks ago I had some kind of a cold/throat thing going on, and it triggered some asthma symptoms, which made me use my inhaler for a while.  I noticed, as I have noticed in recent years, that I was having to use it a LOT more than in the past.  As in, the recommended dosage is two puffs two or three times a day as needed, but I was having to do three puffs every two or three hours to get the usual benefit.  It could be that my bronchial tubes are much more constructed than they used to be, but that didn’t seem likely, so once I was feeling better, I went online to do a bit of research on the matter of asthma inhalers.  Like why a standard albuterol inhaler used to be called “Albuterol,” but went through a name change to “Ventolin” and is now called “ProAir.  And why said inhaler that used to cost about $25 now costs $72.  Well, I was totally shocked (and slightly embarrassed) by what I found.

A few years ago, pharmaceutical manufacturers made a major, across-the-board change to inhalers; the actual bronchodilating med (albuterol) didn’t change, but the propellant, the aerosol “vehicle” that delivers the med into one’s lungs, did.  For many years, the propellant had been a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), but since 2008, it’s been a hydrofluoroalkane (HFA).  In addition to costing more than three times as much, having a different taste, and gumming up the plastic sleeve that holds the canister, HFA has another unfortunate deficiency:  it doesn’t shoot the med with as much force as the CFC did, so it’s harder to get the med where it needs to go.  This is probably why I now need three puffs instead of two, and it’s extremely frustrating to me to now be paying three times as much for what ends up being effectively 33 doses per canister instead of 50.

Of course, I can see a drug company wanting to make more money and switching to a different propellant that will allow them to charge a lot more, but to use a propellant that’s also known to be significantly less effective?  Really?  It just didn’t make sense.

Until I dug a bit deeper.  It seems that the Food and Drug Admininstration mandated the propellant switch, NOT because of cost factors or health factors, but – get this! – because the CFC propellant in my asthma inhaler was depleting the ozone layer!!!  Sweet Georgia Peaches!!!  This nonsense is clearly, in the immortal words of Charles Capps, “ignorance gone to seed.”

Oh, that we rational citizens of the greatest nation in the world could figure out an effective way to reign in our entirely irrational government.



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