(WXYZ) — In today’s Health Alert, one of the top ten prescribed drugs in the US is in short supply. And the situation could go from bad to worse now that a major manufacturer that produced albuterol has shut down.
Albuterol is used to prevent and treat symptoms like shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness. It’s often prescribed to people with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Most people are familiar with Albuterol inhalers. The good news is that those products don’t appear to be in short supply. It’s the liquid form of Albuterol that’s on the FDA’s shortages list. The solution is used in a medical device called a nebulizer. The nebulizer turns the medication into a mist that patients inhale. It works by relaxing the muscles around the airways. This opens up the air passages, making it easier to breathe.
Now here’s the problem. Liquid albuterol is a staple in hospitals nationwide, especially children’s hospitals. During winter, it’s often used to treat conditions like RSV - Respiratory syncytial virus. If you remember, hospitals were packed earlier this winter with young kids and older adults sick with this virus. So there was a lot of demand for albuterol. And now we’re heading into spring allergy season when millions of adults and kids will suffer from asthma symptoms. So this could potentially stretch our limited supply.
The US has one remaining primary source of liquid albuterol. The company is called Nephron Pharmaceuticals, and it just recently started shipping albuterol. Also, the Children’s Hospital Association stepped up and is working with another pharmaceutical supplier to start producing albuterol specifically for hospitals.
In the meantime, it’s important for parents and patients with breathing problems to take precautions. I would recommend that you try your best to avoid asthma triggers if you know what they are. One person’s triggers can be very different from another person's. However, the most common asthma triggers include allergies, air pollution, tobacco smoke, dust mites, pets, and mold.
Now, if you find that one pharmacy is out of liquid albuterol, please reach out to other pharmacies. You can also talk with your doctor about medication alternatives. Lastly, please remember that inhalers are not in short supply, so don’t panic and start hoarding, as this will make things much worse.