The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced that it is nearing the end of its decade-spanning elimination of all medical inhalers that contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Such inhalers will be entirely phased out by the end of 2013.
The agency was tasked with eliminating the products as part of the Montreal Protocol treaty formed in 1987 to protect the Earth's ozone layer by eliminating substances believed to contribute to its destruction. CFCs were once widely used as propellants in a variety of consumer products, but have been just as widely phased out after evidence emerged that the compounds could contribute to ozone depletion.
“CFCs were used as propellants to move the drug out of inhalers so that patients can inhale the medicine,” said Dr. Badrul Chowdhury, director of the Pulmonary, Allergy, and Rheumatology Products division at the FDA. “For more than two decades, the FDA and EPA have collaborated to phase-out CFCs in inhalers - a process that included input from the public, advisory committees, manufacturers, and stakeholders.”
According to the FDA, only two medical inhaler products that use CFCs are still on the market in the U.S.: Combivent Inhalation Aerosol and Maxair Autohaler. Both of the products are used to treat asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and patients using the products are urged to talk to a doctor about changing their medication before the products become unavailable after December 31.
“The EPA and FDA's partnership has facilitated a safe, gradual transition to CFC-free inhalers in the United States,” said Drusilla Hufford, director of the Stratospheric Protection division at the EPA. “This action is an important contribution to the global effort to repair the Earth’s protective ozone layer and save millions of lives through the prevention of skin cancer.”