AANMA Calling for Funding for Education and Monitoring Initiatives
April 29, 2008, Fairfax, VA — This year, millions of patients with asthma, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and other respiratory conditions face a critical change in lifesaving medications. A federal mandate will end production and distribution of albuterol inhalers containing CFC propellants this year. This will take off the market the only generic albuterol inhalers available in the U.S. Four FDA-approved alternative branded inhalers are available. Yet millions of patients aren’t aware.
A congressional and press briefing addressing the status of the transition to non-CFC alternatives will be hosted by Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA) on Wednesday, May 7, from 12:30 to 1:30 PM in the Cannon Caucus Room, Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC. Speakers include patients, medical professionals and members of Congress.
On December 31, 2008, albuterol inhalers containing CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) propellants will be eliminated as part of an international environmental treaty — the Montreal Protocol — to protect the earth’s ozone layer. Alternative inhalers include three albuterol and one levalbuterol inhaler all made with HFA (hydrofluoroalkane) propellants. While both CFC- and HFA-propelled inhalers are safe, effective and look similar, there are distinct differences in the taste and force of the spray as well as priming and cleaning instructions that must be explained both to patients and clinicians.
“Despite the mandate, no federal funding was allocated or responsibility assigned for critical patient, clinician or public awareness and education campaigns. There was no protocol established for monitoring patient progress or ensuring that patient access to medications would not be affected by price or restrictive policies,” says Nancy Sander, president and founder of AANMA. “This fundamental error leaves uninformed patients and clinicians in the dark and vulnerable.”
No one knows exactly how many patients have already transitioned or still need to make the transition to non-CFC bronchodilators. That’s because no federal agency is counting. But marketing information from IMS National Prescription Data suggest that we’re 19 million prescriptions behind. That’s tens of thousands of patients a day who need to fill new prescriptions between now and the end of the year.
“The reality is that people with asthma and other respiratory conditions rely on these inhalers to breathe,” explains AANMA board member Stuart Stoloff, MD, a family physician and member of the National Institutes of Health committee responsible for drawing up the 2007 Expert Panel 3 — Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma. “They and their physicians deserve to know not only what is happening, but how to use new medications correctly to get the optimal response. They should be transitioned in a medically responsible manner and receive care as outlined in the NIH Guidelines before the deadline.”
AANMA is asking Congress to take emergency action that will authorize:
1. National patient, clinician and public awareness and education campaigns
2. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services placement of HFA inhalers on the lowest co-payment tier to ensure patients can afford their medications
3. A program to actively monitor patient progress throughout the transition
“Clearly public education works. AANMA’s Breatherville.org Web site, quarterly Allergy & Asthma Today magazine and The MA Report newsletter have been keeping AANMA members in the know for many years,” says Sander. “Most of our members have already made the transition to HFA inhalers without fanfare. They made informed choices and got appropriate care. The biggest concerns we hear come from nonmembers who need help making the transition safely. And we provide it.”
Founded in 1985, Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics is the leading national nonprofit family organization dedicated to eliminating suffering and death due to asthma, allergies and related conditions. AANMA’s core areas of expertise are education, advocacy and outreach. The organization’s award-winning publications — Allergy & Asthma Today magazine and The MA Report newsletter — and Breatherville.org Web site are consumer lifelines to medical news and healthy living. For more information, call 800.878.4403 or visit www.breatherville.org.
For more information on the Montreal Protocol, visit http://ozone.unep.org/Ratification_status/montreal_protocol.shtml
AANMA’s “Smart Moves to an HFA Inhaler” magazette is available as a free download online at www.breatherville.org
Download the National Institutes of Health Expert Panel 3 — Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/asthma/index.htm