Growing Shortage of Albuterol Inhalers Due to COVID-19, ACAAI Advises

March 23, 2020

Due to the increased need for albuterol inhalers in hospitals for COVID-19, shortages have been occurring in some areas of the country and will likely continue to affect supplies.

Due to the increased need for albuterol inhalers in hospitals for COVID-19, shortages have been occurring in some areas of the country and will likely continue to affect supplies, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) cautioned.1

Albuterol inhalers are indicated for the treatment or prevention of bronchospasm in patients with reversible obstructive airway disease. Because of COVID-19 there has been increased allocation of albuterol inhalers for patients with or suspected to have COVID-19 infection due to concerns that nebulizers may help spread the virus in the air in hospitals.  

The ACAAI suggested practical recommendations for patients who use albuterol inhalers.

  • First, don’t panic. Check your inhaler to make sure it still has medicine.

  • If necessary, you can likely use your expired albuterol inhaler as it is probably still at least partially effective.

  • If you can’t get a refill on your metered dose inhaler, contact your allergist or health care provider as there are other options available which they can prescribe.

  • It is important that you not overuse your albuterol inhaler, as one canister should last for months.

Pharmacists can help pass along information to patients with asthma who may be affected by shortages.

Related: Malaria Drug Under Investigation for Treatment of COVID-19 in Shortage, Teva Steps in

Although there is little data on how the new coronavirus disease affects those with asthma, it is known that asthma has been worsened with other strains of coronavirus, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).2

Individuals with asthma are considered to be at high risk for worsened infection. The CDC recommends that those at high risk, including patients with asthma:

  • Stock up on supplies (a 14-to-30-day supply)

  • Take steps to keep a distance from other

  • Avoid people who are sick, limit close contact, and wash your hands often

  • Avoid crowds as much as possible

  • Avoid non-essential travel

  • Clean and disinfect your home and car regularly, especially items you touch often like doorknobs, light switches, cell phones, car door handles, and steering wheels.

References:

1. A message to asthma sufferers about a shortage of albuterol metered dose inhalers. American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology’s website. https://acaai.org/news/message-asthma-sufferers-about-shortage-albuterol-metered-dose-inhalers. Accessed March 23, 2020.

2. Coronavirus (COVID-19): What People With Asthma Need to Know. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. March 18, 2020. https://community.aafa.org/blog/coronavirus-2019-ncov-flu-what-people-with-asthma-need-to-know.

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