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More on Inhaler Bans

Why is the EPA deciding what medicine you use?

12:26 PM, Sep 26, 2011 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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Last Friday, I noted that the Obama administration FDA was set to carry out a ban on asthma inhalers over environmental concerns because the propellant in them contains greenhouse gases. I thought that this was notable given that the Obama administration had recently stopped itself from implementing major ozone regulations that were to apply to energy producers on the grounds that they were too expensive (or more cynically, because they would hurt his fundraising from business interests).

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Suffice to say, that post got an enormous amount of attention. A number of people have pointed to the fact that the FDA announced the inhaler ban in 2008 to say this isn't the Obama administration's problem. Well, more specifically, the FDA publicly announced the ban in question November 2008, probably because the regulators in question were hoping it would get lost in the political shuffle. Still, if you insist on blaming Bush in part for this regulatory overreach, I won't necessarily disagree. (Though it should be obvious that Bush and the GOP are generally opposed to precisely this kind of regulatory overreach when it comes to the environment, and the same can not be said of Obama and Democrats.)

However, this is still happening on Obama's watch and my point was and remains that this is particularly damning for the Obama because his administration just admitted cost-effectiveness is a good reason to repeal ozone regs. If that's the case, then surely preventing a life-threatening illness that disproportionately affects children and minorities is a darn good reason to keep from implementing similar regulations that are about to go into effect -- never mind that the amount of environmental damage done by inhalers has to be negligible.

For some more context, an alert reader let me know that his asthma inhaler had already been banned. "My asthma was perfectly under control.  Then the product Intal -- the only non-steroid preventative asthma medication on the market -- was discontinued," he wrote. This had a lot of people understandably upset -- see this series of posts on an internet forum:

I was just notified by my daughter's physician that Intal is being discontinued. It is the last non-steroid inhaler available. She is unable to take ANY inhaled steroids due to severe side effects (including qvar, Asmanex, etc.). Does anyone else share my concerns??

The FDA should be basing its decisions about what drugs are legal and not almost entirely on issues related to human health. Yet, all of these inhaler bans appear to be at the behest of the EPA. The problem of regulatory overreach on these matters should be dealt with immediately -- regardless of who happens to be president.

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