The FDA Has Approved the First Generic Albuterol Inhaler for Asthma

To some people with asthma, these albuterol inhalers are literal life-savers.
To some people with asthma, these albuterol inhalers are literal life-savers.
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As people with asthma know all too well, the cost of breathing more easily can be pretty steep—one “rescue” inhaler can cost $70 or more. Hopefully, those prices will finally drop with the introduction of the first generic version, which the FDA approved earlier this week for those 4 years of age or older.

The brand-name version currently available is the ProAir HFA Inhalation Aerosol, an albuterol sulfate inhaler that treats or prevents bronchospasms. When these spasms occur, muscles around the airways are swelling, tightening, and constricting air flow; this makes it difficult for people with asthma to breathe. Spasms sometimes happen during or after exercise, or at the beginning and end of the day. Some people rely on the inhaler to keep their airways open during allergy season or when they’re sick, while others use it on a daily basis.

The reason it’s taken so long for a generic version to be approved isn’t because of patent restrictions. Instead, it’s because the inhaler itself is difficult to develop. If you’ve ever used a rescue inhaler, you’ve probably seen the little ticker on the back that keeps track of how many doses are left: Each time you take a puff, the inhaler dispenses a certain amount of medicine and then updates the countdown. As the FDA explained in a press release, it’s not an easy process to perfect.

“Metered dose inhalers like these are known as complex generics, which are traditionally harder to copy because of their complex formulation or mode of delivery,” FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn said in the release. “As a result, too many complex drugs lack generic competition even after patents and exclusivities no longer block generic approval.”

WCNC reports that the new inhaler will be manufactured by Perrigo Company plc and its partner Catalent Pharma Solutions, though we don’t know when exactly it will hit the market or how much cheaper it will be than its brand-name competition.

There still isn’t a cure for asthma, but making treatments more affordable is an important way to prevent it from becoming a life-threatening condition.

[h/t WCNC]

Drive-Thru Coronavirus Testing Site in Pennsylvania Amish Country Accommodates Horses and Buggies

William Thomas Cain/Stringer/Getty Images
William Thomas Cain/Stringer/Getty Images

One way coronavirus testing centers can encourage social distancing is by testing patients in their vehicles. In Pennsylvania's Amish Country, that includes horses and buggies as well as cars. As CNN reports, a small clinic is accommodating the old-school transportation method in an effort to make tests more accessible to Amish and Mennonite communities.

Most residents of Belleville, Pennsylvania, are Amish or Mennonite—two groups that are uniquely vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their cautious approach to technology can result in lower news consumption, which may leave people ill-informed about a crisis that's changing by the day.

Both communities are also tight-knit: a benefit in most times of hardship, but a recipe for tragedy during a pandemic. "When they have church, they have 300 people crowded together in a little farmhouse. From the point of view of an infection like this, this is a disaster," Dr. D. Holmes Morton, founder and medical director of the Central Pennsylvania Clinic in Belleville, told CNN.

Many Amish and Mennonite meetings and church services have been suspended indefinitely, but social distancing is just one part of keeping the communities safe. Testing is also essential to containing the virus, and the Central Pennsylvania Clinic aims to make its tests available to as many people as possible. As one of the few coronavirus testing sites in the area, they're working to test asymptotic patients as well as those who are feeling sick. Research suggests that up to 50 percent of novel coronavirus carriers show no symptoms.

The clinic is not just accommodating Amish and Mennonite patients, but also how they see them. Residents are able to roll up in their horses and buggies and get tested without stepping into the clinic. At least 65 people have used the drive-through (or ride-through) clinic since it opened on April 1.

[h/t CNN]

In the 1800s, Drinking Too Much Tea Could Get a Woman Sent to an Insane Asylum

The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images
The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

If you were a woman in the 19th century, virtually anything could get you committed to an insane asylum—including drinking too much tea.

NHS Grampian Archives, which covers the region around Scotland’s Grampian mountains, dug up an admissions record from the Aberdeen Lunatic Asylum while looking into the institution’s annual reports from the 1840s. The table contains data on causes of admissions categorized by sex. In addition to those admitted to the asylum for “prolonged nursing,” “poverty,” or “disappointment in love” (one man and one woman admitted for that one!), one woman arrived at the asylum only to have her issues blamed on “sedentary life—abuse of tea.”

Intrigued by the diagnosis, someone at the archives tracked down more details on the patient and posted the case notes on Facebook. Naturally, her condition involved more than just a little too much Earl Grey. Elizabeth Collie, a 34-year-old factory worker, was admitted in November 1848 after suffering from delusions, specifically delusions about machines.

Her files state that “she imagines that some species of machinery has been employed by her neighbors in the house she has been living in, which had the effect of causing pain and disorder in her head, bowels, and other parts of the body.”

Asylum employees noted that ”no cause [for her condition] can be assigned, except perhaps the excessive use of tea, to which she has always been much addicted.” She was released in June 1849.

A letter to the editors of The British Medical Journal in 1886 suggests that the suspicion of women’s tea-drinking habits was not unique to Aberdeen mental health institutions. One doctor, J. Muir Howie—who once served as a regional president for the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh, so we can assume he was relatively respectable—wrote to the publication:

Would you kindly allow me to draw attention to the fact that, among women at least, the abuse of tea frequently leads to the abuse of alcohol! My experience in connection with a home for inebriate women has led me to this conclusion. Many of the inmates, indeed, almost all of them, were enormous tea-drinkers before they became victims to alcoholic dipsomania. During their indulgence in alcohol, they rarely drink much tea; but, as soon as the former cut off, they return to the latter. In many instances, alcohol was first used to relieve the nervous symptoms produced by excessive tea drinking.

Ah, women. So susceptible to mania and vice. It's a miracle any of us stay out of the madhouse.