The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) is sharing this press release from the office of Congressmen Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) to bring you the latest asthma and allergy news quickly.
On April 7, 2020, AAFA's president and CEO, Kenneth Mendez, sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking them to address possible albuterol shortages due to COVID-19 (the new coronavirus). AAFA thanks the members of the Asthma and Allergy Caucus and other patient organizations for also sending a letter to the FDA about albuterol supply (PDF) so everyone will have access to the medicine they need.
Albuterol shortages are not widespread at this time. And the FDA has taken some steps to address it by approving a generic albuterol inhaler. In the meantime, we can all work together to make sure everyone has enough asthma medicine. There some ways you can make sure you have the medicine you need while not depleting the existing supply. Our Medical Scientific Council and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both agree that a 30-day supply of your medicine should be enough during this time.
AAFA will continue to track asthma drug shortages and advocate for additional solutions to protect our community during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
Congressmen Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) and Fred Upton (R-MI), Co-Chairs of the Asthma and Allergy Caucus, joined by Congressmen TJ Cox (D-CA) and Peter King (R-NY), Members of Caucus, led 57 Members of the House on a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about shortages of albuterol inhalers, which are critical to effective asthma management.
“My district, which includes the Bronx and Westchester, is at the epicenter of the nation’s coronavirus outbreak and health care providers are using every tool to help New Yorkers battle this deadly disease, including albuterol inhalers,” said Rep. Engel. “Asthma rates in my district are particularly bad, even when we don’t have a pandemic. It is imperative that our nation have enough inhalers for those afflicted by this terrible virus as well as for the nearly 25 million Americans living with asthma. As Co-Chair of the Asthma and Allergy Caucus, I will continue to demand that the FDA take proactive actions to prevent shortages of albuterol inhalers.”
“We know that folks with existing respiratory conditions face much greater risks from contracting the coronavirus, so it’s critical that the FDA ensure that whoever needs an albuterol inhaler can get one,” said Rep. Upton. “In Michigan alone, nearly 780,000 adults suffer from asthma, and inhalers can truly help save lives. I’m eager to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get folks across the country the treatment and care they deserve during this challenging moment in history.”
“Representing the Central Valley, where we have the most polluted air quality in the nation and high rates of asthma, I know how important it is that Americans living with asthma have access to the medication they need,” said Rep. Cox. “Many of the rural communities in my district are already getting hit hard by the deadly coronavirus. I am working every day with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure everyone living with asthma has access to the medication they need, and I will continue to fight for them during this crisis.”
“It’s imperative that those living with asthma have access to needed inhalers, medicine and treatment. This pandemic unfortunately increases their risk and we must ensure any demand is met,” said Rep. King.
“Asthma impacts nearly 25 million Americans,” said American Lung Association President and CEO Harold Wimmer. “For these Americans, it is of the utmost importance that they continue to be able to access their asthma medications and other treatments. The Lung Association greatly appreciates the work of Congress and the Food and Drug Administration to ensure access to these life-saving treatments will not be threatened by the increase in demand brought on by this pandemic.”
“We share Reps. Engel, Upton, Cox, and King concerns about potential shortages of the asthma drug albuterol during this COVID-19 pandemic and thank them for raising this critical issue with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” said Kenneth Mendez, President and CEO of The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). “With the increased demand for albuterol cannisters from hospitals, we want to make sure there’s ready access of albuterol for people with asthma. Albuterol is the primary rescue medication to treat asthma attacks and without albuterol, people are more likely to experience asthma attacks that they can’t control. This could potentially increase hospitalizations. Our hope is that state, federal and private sectors coordinate efforts to protect access to asthma drugs before any official shortage is recorded.”
Coronavirus or COVID-19 can cause serious, often life-threatening, breathing problems. To treat these symptoms, clinicians often prescribe albuterol inhalers, a medication that Americans living with asthma depend on to manage their condition. With increasing cases of COVID-19, demand for these inhalers is rapidly growing, making it difficult for Americans with asthma to access albuterol inhalers. Individuals with asthma also have an elevated risk of serious illness from COVID-19, making it critical that they have access to albuterol inhalers. This bipartisan letter urges the FDA to work with stakeholders and patient advocates to ensure there are enough albuterol inhalers for individuals living with asthma and those battling coronavirus.
Congressman Engel has been at the forefront to prevent shortages of critical medicines. On September 16, 2019, Congressman Engel led a bipartisan group of over 90 House Members in demanding that the FDA Drug Shortages Task Force release an overdue report on this pressing public health issue. The Drug Shortages Task Force issued its report on October 30, 2019.
Following the FDA’s announcement of the first coronavirus-related drug shortage on February 27, 2020, Congressman Engel introduced the bipartisan Preventing Drug Shortages Act, which built on the recommendations from the FDA Drug Shortages Task Force.
Several provisions similar to the Preventing Drug Shortages Act were included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act or the Phase 3 stimulus. Specifically, these provisions gave federal health officials new tools to address vulnerabilities in the pharmaceutical supply chain to prevent drug shortages and create new reporting requirements to help officials better identity sources that could lead to drug shortages.