Law bans otc asthma inhalers, bad for environment

Primatene Mist is inhaled epinephrine / From file

Primatene Mist is an over-the-counter inhaler, basically inhaled epinephrine. It's being phased out by legislators, saying it has CFC's, which are fluorocarbons that affect the ozone layer. But health officials are happy it's banned for another reason.

"Inhaled epinephrine is not a good treatment for asthma today," says PA Nancy McKemie.

Asthma is a disease of inflammation and constriction of the bronchial tubes.

"Epinephrine just dilated the blood vessels and opened up the airways," says McKemie.

Good for a quick fix, but not a good treatment of the disease. It also has ill side effects.

"We don't recommend it in older patients because it can stimulate the heart and make it beat too fast. When asthmatics use Primatene Mist frequently, it becomes ineffective and doesn't work anymore."

Nationwide, 10-20 percent of asthma sufferers use Primatene. The Allergy and Asthma Clinic treats thousands of patients every year for asthma in southwest Georgia alone.

Pharmacists say the difference in cost between the over-the-counter inhaler and those prescribed by a doctor can make a difference to those families looking to pinch a penny.

Gary Phillips is a pharmacist in Albany and says it's been years since he's dispensed the Primatene.

"If they had to pay cash, you're talking between the $40 to $50 range versus, the over-the-counter medication would be more in the $20 range," says Phillips.

For those folks, doctors recommend they see their primary care physician or allergist or pulmonologist to get on the right medication.