Shortage of Asthma Medication Expected
Doctors and pharmacists in California are reporting problems obtaining the inhaled asthma medication albuterol or expect to have problems in the future because of a federal rule that bans the use of chemicals in the inhaler that deplete the ozone layer, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The albuterol inhalers, which contain chlorofluorocarbons, will be phased out by Dec. 31, 2008, but the pharmaceutical industry's response to the rule has been "delayed" and has resulted in "sporadic shortages" of the medication, according to the Bee.
Although new versions of the inhaler have been developed and approved by FDA, some cost more and often are not covered by health plans. Some pharmacists expect the shortage to worsen as allergy season approaches because pollen can trigger asthma.
However, Mark Glatt, chair of a Kaiser Permanente committee that sets the drug formulary in Sacramento and Roseville, said the new rule could lead to better disease management of asthma by encouraging patients to treat the condition with maintenance medications rather than albuterol inhalers, which relieve but do not prevent symptoms (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 4/11).