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Can you use an expired albuterol inhaler?

Medically reviewed by Sally Chao, MD. Last updated on Feb 2, 2021.

Official Answer

by Drugs.com

An albuterol inhaler should be discarded after it passes its expiration date. It should be thrown out even sooner if it has been 13 months since it was removed from its foil packaging.

In addition, if the inhaler has a counter, it should not be used after the counter reaches zero. That’s true even if it seems like it still contains medicine. The inhaler may release an insufficient amount of medicine after its counter reaches zero.

Dose counters on albuterol inhalers have been found to help people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) avoid emergency department visits related to their conditions because it avoids the false sense that you have taken enough medicine at the end of the cartridge life.

What is Albuterol

Albuterol is a bronchodilator, making breathing easier by relaxing and opening lung passages.

It’s available in three forms:

  • An inhalation aerosol is available under a few different brand names, as well as a newer generic option. It can be used by children ages 4 and older, as well as by adults.
  • An inhalation powder is available under one brand name and can be used by children 12 and older.
  • A solution that is inhaled through a machine called a nebulizer, which distributes the medication as a mist, is available for children two and older and for adults.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first generic, metered-dose albuterol sulfate inhaler in April 2020 in response to an increased demand for albuterol inhalers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Albuterol solutions should be stored in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Albuterol inhalers should be kept at room temperature. Both should be stored away from excess heat or moisture and not in the bathroom.

Asthma and COPD

Asthma and COPD are both diseases that affect the lungs and airways. In asthma, the airways can become swollen and tighten.

Symptoms include:

  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Coughing

The disease affects 26 million people, including seven million children.

Causes include:

  • Allergens
  • Environment
  • Genetics

Triggers include:

  • Respiratory viruses
  • Smoke
  • Pollution
  • Exposure to allergens

Some asthma is exercise-induced.

In COPD, less air flows through the airways. COPD is the name for a group of diseases that include emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Affecting 16 million Americans — possibly millions more who are undiagnosed — it causes airflow blockage.

References
  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine MedlinePlus. Albuterol Oral Inhalation. February 15, 2016. Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682145.html. [Accessed November 12, 2020].
  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. ProAir HFA: Highlights of Prescribing Information. February 2019. Available at: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2019/021457s036lbl.pdf. [Accessed November 12, 2020].
  3. Price DB, Rigazio A, Buatti Small M, Ferro TJ. Historical cohort study examining comparative effectiveness of albuterol inhalers with and without integrated dose counter for patients with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Journal of Asthma and Allergy. 2016; 9: 145–154. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5008637/.
  4. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Asthma. September 18, 2014. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/asthma. [Accessed November 12, 2020].
  5. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. COPD. November 13, 2018. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/copd. [Accessed November 12, 2020].
  6. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Approves First Generic of a Commonly Used Albuterol Inhaler to Treat and Prevent Bronchospasm. April 8, 2020. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-generic-commonly-used-albuterol-inhaler-treat-and-prevent-bronchospasm. [Accessed November 12, 2020].
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Learn How to Control Asthma. September 6, 2019. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/faqs.htm. [Accessed November 12, 2020].
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. June 6, 2018. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/copd/index.html. [Accessed November 12, 2020].

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