Published Online: Friday, June 1, 2007

Asthma sufferers in the United States will be forced to spend an additional $1.2 billion a year for branded albu-terol inhalers after all the lower-cost generic versions are forced off the market next year, according to a new analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Citing US obligations under the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty designed to protect the earth?s ozone layer, the FDA ruled that inhalers using the propellant chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) may not be sold in the United States starting in 2008.

Inhalers containing the newer and more environmentally friendly propellant hydro-fluoroalkane (HFA) will replace the CFC products next year, but all existing HFA inhalers currently available are brand name products costing up to 3 times more than the generic versions they will replace, the researchers said. Generic HFA albuterol inhalers are under development but are not expected to be approved for sale in the United States until 2012.

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