Over-the-Counter Asthma Inhalers Should Be Used Cautiously
WebMD News Archive
According to Nicholas Malerba, director of respiratory therapy
at Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, N.Y., use of OTC asthma inhalers
often results in patients' not seeking medical attention, which can have very
serious consequences. For this reason, he maintains that OTC inhalers should be
taken off the market.
Malerba tells WebMD, "We have gotten a lot of patients who
come in here after using an OTC inhaler improperly. They think that if a little
is good, a lot must be better, and that's simply not true. They end up with
rebound effect [where their air passages shut down], and it's very difficult
for us to pull them out of it."
Altman acknowledges that such a condition is possible if
someone uses OTC inhalers too often, but says that the research doesn't show
that this happens very often.
Altman believes that for the patient with mild, occasional
asthma, the OTC asthma inhalers can be a reasonable choice. He says, "My
daughter had severe asthma when she was very small, but now that she's in her
30s, she only experiences tightness in her chest every one to three months. For
my daughter, OTC inhalers are a reasonable choice."
For consumer safety, Altman says, "Our group has
recommended to the FDA that labeling [of OTC asthma inhalers] be strengthened,
and they are doing so. The new labeling will emphasize the need for further
medical care if symptoms do not improve after using the OTC inhaler."