MADISON (WKOW) -- It's that quick puff of medicine that helps millions of asthma patients breathe. Inside the albuterol inhalers, however, are chlorofluorocarbons. The CFC's provide the pressure to propel the medicine into a person's throat and lungs. They're also the same compound known to eat away the earth's protective ozone layer.
Enter HFA, or hydroflouroalkane. With the development of inhalers that work on HFA, the federal government will ban CFC inhalers after December 31, 2008.
Now allergists like UW Health Dr. Mark Moss are teaching asthma patients about the upcoming change. In fact, UW student Nicole Hottmann went to see Moss, confused about an inhaler she recently received. "I got the inhalers and I had no idea," said Hottmann. "It didn't look like the inhaler I use. So I asked Dr. Moss if they could give me a new prescription because I thought I have the wrong one."
The new ones do look slightly different. They also act differently. "The newer propellants gave a softer puff, so it's not as forceful. and it's not as cold," said Dr. Moss.
While Moss insists the medicine itself is still the same, and still as effective, there are skeptics. An internet petition (CLICK HERE to view) started in October 2007, asking the government to hold off banning CFC's in inhalers.
The site, administered by Art Abramson, contains data suggesting the new HFA alternative might not be as effective for people with the worse cases of asthma. It also questions whether banning the relatively minimal CFC releases are worth any risk to patients.
Dr. Moss views the changeover as more of a learning curve.
He's referring all asthma patients to consider buying HFA inhalers now in order to prevent run-ups and confusion at pharmacies after the deadline. "So that we can teach them and prepare them the differences between the new and the old."
The more environmentally-friendly inhalers do cost more. It's depends on your insurance, but generally, a patient only has to pay one to five dollars in co-pay for the CFC inhalers. The new HFA inhalers require a co-pay of $10 to $50.