House to defy ozone treaty, allow sale of asthma inhalers

Primatene Mist had been used by asthma sufferers for decades, but it was banned under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, and also the Clean Air Act. Supporters of the ban have said Primatene Mist contains chlorofluorocarbons that deplete the ozone layer, as well as a drug, epinephrine, that is now seen by some doctors as less effective against asthma.

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But supporters of the product say people still rely on Primatene Mist for asthma attacks, and that the ban takes away the only effective over-the-counter product for people with asthma.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the bill by voice vote in August and said passage would allow the remaining 1 million inhalers to be sold.

"While the Obama administration and Environmental Protection Agency have refused to be on the side of asthma patients, today the Energy and Commerce Committee put patients first," bill sponsor Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said in August.

"Members of Congress spend a lot of time talking about how much they care about the plight of asthmatics and patients generally, decrying the high costs of healthcare," Burgess said. "This bill returns — even if just for a limited time — a safe, effective and inexpensive treatment option to the hands of patients suffering from an asthma attack — and one that has been in use for nearly 50 years."

Republicans are bringing the bill up under a suspension of House rules, which means a two-thirds majority will be needed for passage.