Asthma sufferers say a shortage of Ventolin means they have to use a generic brand, which some say doesn’t work as well.

Calgarian Kate Reid has suffered from asthma since she was a baby, and has used several medications to deal with it.

“It’s been really severe, I’ve been constantly in and out of the hospital and I’ve only been under control for the last 3 to 5 years, but then recently I got sick with the flu, with this flu outbreak, and that just set me back again,” she said.

Normally she uses Ventolin when she has an attack, but the drug has been unavailable for the last few months.

“It had to do with the inhalers not containing enough propellant and therefore not always administering the correct dose,” said Heather Walker, pharmacist. “Our formulation is different than the one they use in the States but the one there was short, so I’m guessing they wanted to supply their own demand first.”

Reid says the generic brand she has been forced to use isn’t doing a good job.

“It really hit my lungs hard, it wouldn’t work, it would instead make my lungs feel like they were on fire, it wouldn’t give me any relief,” she said. “I think it’s very irresponsible. Ventolin is one of the main, if not the main medications for asthmatics especially in emergency situations and I think taking it off the market or not having it available to asthmatics is a very poor decision and you are putting lives at risk.”

Walker says she has heard from other patients who say the generic brand is not as good as Ventolin. She says they have the same active ingredients, but the difference is in the carrier substances. She says the generic drug will still work, but might have different side effects.

“Everybody reacts a little differently to medications and often that will be an issue, one might be good for you and not for me,” she said.

It could take until mid-March or even later before Ventolin is available in Canada again.