Inhaled medication is essential for people with chronic respiratory diseases, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The most commonly used type of inhaler, the pressurised metered dose inhaler (pMDIs), contains fluorinated gas propellants that have global warming potential. However, the quantity of propellants within these inhalers make a trivial contribution to global warming, unlike in non-medical uses, such as refrigerators and air conditioning.
Currently, these inhalers are the only feasible option available to most people with asthma in low- and middle-income countries and children everywhere.
While we support action to restrict the emission of gases with global warming potential, we argue that the EU’s decision to eliminate these inhalers over a very short time period, without a viable replacement, will put lives at risk.
New propellants are in development, but it will take time for these to be approved and manufactured in sufficient quantities to provide a viable replacement in the short-term.
Without an affordable alternative available, this transition will have severe and immediate consequences for people in low- and middle-income countries, who already struggle to access pMDIs and account for 96% of asthma deaths worldwide.
Medications are available in inhalers that do not require a propellant, but not everyone can use these, particularly children (five years and younger) and many older people.
Hence, the magnitude of the harm to children with asthma everywhere and adults with asthma and COPD who do not have affordable access to alternative devices, far outweighs any potential environmental benefits. Fighting climate change must go hand in hand with ending poverty, reducing inequality and improving health.
Therefore, The Union calls on the EU legislators and all those involved in framing regulations relevant to inhaler devices for asthma and COPD to:
- Ensure that medical supplies of current propellants remain available until inhaled medications with low global warming potential become available in sufficient quantities for all patients everywhere.
- Ensure sufficient time is allowed for new inhaler devices with low global warming potential to be developed and prescribed for vulnerable people such as young children, those with limited manual dexterity and people with asthma and COPD in low- and middle-income countries.