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'CFC-Free' Asthma Inhalers Proving Difficult for Millions

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The U.S. government-mandated switch to CFC-free inhalers is causing problems for millions of people with asthma and other lung diseases, according to The New York Times. CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), used as propellants in the inhalers, damage the Earth's ozone layer.

As of Jan. 1, 2009, CFC inhalers will have to be replaced with inhalers that use propellants called HFAs (hydrofluoroalkanes). But HFA inhalers cost much more than CRC inhalers and the new and old inhalers differ in feel, force and taste, and in how they're primed and cleaned, the Times said.

Many asthma patients and doctors haven't been educated about the changes, which has resulted in ungrounded fears about the new inhalers, preventable trips to emergency rooms, and even hoarding of CFC inhalers, the newspaper reported.

"What the government failed to do is to mandate anyone to tell patients and physicians this transition was happening. There is no education, no monitoring of patients, no financial assistance to patients who have to pay higher prices for the new drugs," said Nancy Sander, president of the Allergy and Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics.

CFC-free inhalers have been available for more than a decade but four to five million inhaler users have yet to switch to them, the group said.

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