Inhalers containing chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, will be phased out by the end of the year to comply with international treaties intended to protect the the ozone layer.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration made the announcement, which is part of an ongoing phase-out of the inhaler products. Only two remain on the market: Combivent Inhalation Aerosol and Maxair Autohaler. The FDA advises patients using these products to see their doctors for alternative treatment.
Inhalers are critical to the health of the 25 million Americans who suffer from asthma and the 15 million Americans diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Asthma constricts the airways and can cause coughing, difficulty in breathing and tightness or pain in the chest.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a serious lung disease that grows worse over time. Symptoms can include chest tightness, chronic cough and excessive phlegm.
Most inhalers that used CFCs have already been phased out by the FDA. The most widely used inhaler -- albuterol -- was discontinued in 2008. The CFC products have been replaced with inhalers that use propellants known as hydrofluoroalkanes, or HFAs.
The phase-out is in accord with the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, an international treaty to phase out the worldwide production and use of CFCs. In the U.S., CFCs have been removed from such products as hairsprays, deodorants and air conditioning.
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