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Reti paper confirms alcohol content a red herring

Media release
Friday 6 May 2005

Reti paper confirms alcohol content a red herring – PHARMAC

A paper published in the NZ Medical Journal today shows that earlier concerns raised about the alcohol content of Salamol asthma inhalers are unfounded, PHARMAC Medical Director Dr Peter Moodie says.

The paper, by Northland GP Shane Reti, reports that a negative breath alcohol reading is returned within three minutes of taking two puffs of the ethanol-containing asthma inhaler Salamol. Breathing into breath-test equipment immediately after taking two puffs returned an initial positive breath test.

The CFC-free Salamol inhalers, which are due to become the sole subsidised salbutamol inhalers from 1 July, use ethanol as a propellant.

“The paper is interesting and shows the issue raised earlier was a red herring,” Dr Moodie says.

“We know there are a number of chemicals and indeed freely-available products that contain very small amounts of alcohol. Some of these can be picked up by breath-alcohol testing equipment.”

“What this paper shows is that no-one is at any risk of prosecution as a result of using Salamol asthma inhalers.”

Dr Moodie says he has also noted comments from Professor Julian Crane that the alcohol content of Salamol presents no risk.

“People who use this inhaler will be putting small amounts of alcohol into their mouth, but this is evaporated in about 1-2 minutes,” Dr Moodie adds.

“Intoxication occurs when alcohol affects the brain. Taking a couple of puffs on a Salamol inhaler puts a small amount of alcohol in your mouth, not in your brain.”

[ends]

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