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DeMint Tries to Halt Ban on Over-the-Counter Asthma Inhaler

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June 17, 2011: Sen. Jim DeMint speaks during the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans.Reuters

Sen. Jim DeMint is trying to stop the federal government from banning a popular over-the-counter asthma inhaler, introducing an amendment that would yank funding for the ban set to go into effect in January.

The Food and Drug Administration rule would take off the shelves the epinephrine asthma inhaler known as Primatene Mist. The product is currently the only FDA-approved over-the-counter inhaler and is being banned because it uses something called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as a propellant -- the substance is considered harmful to the ozone layer. 

But DeMint's office noted that CFC emissions from U.S. inhalers make up just a tiny fraction of total CFC emissions, and he said the ban could lead asthma sufferers to turn to "less effective remedies." 

"The ban ... puts environmental concerns ahead of concerns for the estimated 3 million American asthma sufferers who use these inhalers," DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton said in a statement. 

DeMint, R-S.C., filed the amendment Tuesday to wall off funding for the implementation of the ban. 

The FDA push to regulate the chemical in inhalers has been under way since 2006. It stems from an international treaty signed under the Reagan administration. 

In lieu of Primatene Mist, the FDA has suggested users of the product get a prescription for sanctioned inhalers, such as those that use an "environmentally friendly" propellant known as HFA. 

But with the clock ticking, the phase-out has raised concerns. The FDA has acknowledged it's been a challenge to get the word out about the looming change. 

A group called the National Campaign to Save CFC Asthma Inhalers has also complained that some people will end up finding out they need a prescription in the middle of an attack, adding that many asthma sufferers prefer Primatene Mist to other products.