What to know about the albuterol shortage

Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 8:30 PM CST
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MOUNTAIN BROOK, Ala. (WBRC) - A warning to parents and caregivers of small children: a medication often used to treat breathing problems is in short supply.

Liquid albuterol has been on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s shortages list for several months.

Albuterol is most commonly used to treat asthma, chronic bronchitis, or other breathing conditions. The inhalation form of the medication is what’s in short supply.

Rebecca Sorrell with Ritch’s Pharmacy said infants and young children will be impacted most by this shortage. She said that’s because babies can’t use metered inhalers, or rescue inhalers, as easily as older children and adults. Instead, doctors often recommend nebulizers to treat children with breathing problems. The machine turns the albuterol into a fine mist they can easily inhale.

The FDA first started warning about the shortage back in October, but a major supplier of the medication shutdown in February adding to the shortage.

Sorrell said there’s no need to panic now because hospitals in our area aren’t experiencing a shortage, and there are other treatments available.

Levalbuterol, also known as Xopenex, is a very similar medication that can be used. In fact, it’s probably preferred in children. Secondly, be sure to take those alternative actions that we can take to improve our breathing environment such as avoiding people with cough and cold in this heavy pollen season right now. If you’re around somebody’s that’s smoking or some type of air irritant, you know, try to avoid that,” Sorrell said.

Sorrell also encourages parents and caregivers to stay on top of refills and not wait until the last minute to get them. She also advises people not to hoard the medication, saying it would be a waste to do that anyway because albuterol has a short self-life.

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