Committee Members Urge EPA to Ensure Continued Access to Over-the-Counter Asthma Inhalers

November 15, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - Several members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee today urged Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson to take all appropriate action to allow consumers to continue to have access to over-the-counter, chlorofluorocarbon (CFC)-based inhalers that have already been manufactured until non-CFC inhalers are available over-the-counter. Without action by EPA, patients suffering from asthma who rely on over-the-counter inhalers will lose access to existing supplies of this medication at the end of this year. The members are urging EPA to temporarily allow existing stock of inhalers to remain available to consumers, rather than allowing the currently scheduled ban on CFC-based inhalers to take effect, which would leave patients without any over-the-counter option until an alternative becomes available.

The members wrote, "Due to Food and Drug Administration regulations and Environmental Protection Agency enforcement, on December 31, 2011, consumers will no longer have access to an over-the-counter asthma inhaler used for the relief of bronchial asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, tightness of chest, and shortness of breath.   We are primarily concerned that the decision to continue with plans to take chlorofluorocarbon based over-the-counter inhalers off the market when there is no non-CFC based over-the-counter alternative available could harm patients by severely restricting access to essential medication. 

"To minimize disruption for those that rely on over-the-counter inhalers, we urge you to act promptly to ensure that available inventories of Primatene Mist can continue to be distributed and sold without threat of any enforcement action by the EPA.  We request that EPA take all appropriate actions within the agency's authority, including providing assurances that the agency will refrain from any enforcement actions, in order to allow for the continued distribution and sale in the U.S. of those available inventories after December 31, 2011, and until such time as a non-CFC based substitute over-the-counter inhaler becomes available." Click here to read the entire letter.

The members requested a response by November 22, 2011.