No more over-the-counter option for asthma sufferers

Stacy Pacuas
Stacy Pacuas
Dr. Jeffrey Kam
Dr. Jeffrey Kam

By Teri Okita – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An alert for all the asthma sufferers out there. By December 31st, your over-the-counter option for asthma relief comes to an end. Primatene Mist, the only OTC inhaler will be off store shelves for good.

Stacy Pacuas was hospitalized dozens of times when she was younger. As an adult, she still suffers bad asthma attacks. "You can't lie down. You try not to move around too much because then you're out of breath." Pacuas says it's like trying to breathe out of a straw.

She carries her inhaler around with her like a security blanket and has opted to use a prescription inhaler. Soon, that will be the only choice once Primatene Mist is no longer available.

Straub allergist, Dr. Jeffrey Kam, says "For asthma specialists, we were actually happy when we heard this because we were afraid that there's a lot of people out there self-treating their asthma, buying these over-the-counter Primatene Mist inhalers."

We've seen the commercials for decades. "Primatene Mist: the fastest type asthma relief without a prescription!" The FDA estimates up to two million Americans use it, but the product contains CFCs, chlorofluorocarbons – which are known to deplete the earth's ozone layer. U.S. environmental laws now ban products that emit CFCs, so that means asthma sufferers must now use only prescribed inhalers.

Dr. Kam has advice for long-time, Primatene Mist users, especially those who, as he explained, self-treat. "It's time to go see your physician and get an accurate diagnosis and get on some better medication."

The state Department of Health says about 5% of men in Hawaii and more than 9% of women have asthma. Broken down even further, Native Hawaiians at 10.8%, Caucasians at 7.6%, followed by Filipinos at 6.2% are most asthmatic.

"Because of genetics, because of vog, lots of factors here, year round growing season for pollens. We got it all here, so it's not really paradise for the asthmatics or allergic individuals," says Dr. Kam.

The study also found almost 10% of Hawaii's children suffer from the condition.  Long's Drugs, Wal-Mart, and Walgreen's have already taken Primatene Mist off their shelves.

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