It’s no secret that all of the CFC-containing inhalers have finally been discontinued, with the last leaving the market as of December 31, 2013. CFCs, or chlorofluorocarbons, were the propellants used within inhalers to help the medication spray out—similar to how a bottle of aerosol hairspray works. CFCs were found to be bad for the environment leading to a breakdown of the ozone layer which in turn would lead to harmful exposure of the sun.
The FDA came to a decision in 2008 that albuterol inhalers would no longer be allowed to contain CFCs, and in the following years all CFC-containing inhalers have now been phased out. However, most products do have alternatives that have been proven safe for the environment which contain the replacement for CFCs: HFAs, or hydrofluoroalkanes, are the new environmentally-friendly propellant used in all inhalers and approved by the FDA.
The last two CFC inhalers to be discontinued? The Combivent inhalation aerosol inhaler was phased out in favor of the new Combivent Respimat inhaler last year. Now, the last remaining CFC inhaler, Maxair Autohaler, has been discontinued as of December 31, 2013.
If you’re looking for alternatives, not every discontinued inhaler was replaced by a product with a similar name like Combivent. If you don’t already have a replacement for Maxair, a short-acting inhaler, or another product, discuss with your doctor or pharmacist which alternative might be right for you.
Some examples of short-acting (rescue) inhalers:
Some examples of maintenance (preventative) inhalers:
Combination products (these have more than one active ingredient):
Single therapy products (only one active ingredient):
Still not sure which one you need? Fast-acting inhalers versus maintenance inhalers:
Fast-acting or rescue inhalers are those that can be used during an actual asthma attack. They work by quickly opening the airways in the lungs so that breathing is easier.
Maintenance or preventative inhalers are those that need to be used on a daily basis. These medications are to be used even if you feel good and are not having trouble breathing. Maintenance inhalers CANNOT be used during an actual asthma attack. Depending on the type of maintenance inhaler used, they help by reducing airway inflammation over time, which in turn helps with breathing.