Dry Powder Inhalers and Metered Dose Inhalers

Thank you for considering whether to change your preventer inhaler to one with a lower carbon footprint. We hope you find the information below useful.

As a practice we are trying to reduce our carbon footprint. Inhalers for respiratory problems including Asthma and COPD are a big part of the carbon footprint of General Practice. Certain types of inhalers are much better for the environment than others.

Metered dose inhalers (MDIs) are the most commonly prescribed type of inhaler but they contain propellants known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are greenhouse gases that are thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

Dry power inhalers (DPIs) are the other type of inhaler which have a different mechanism, do not contain these greenhouse gases, and are therefore better for the environment.

Metered dose inhalers have estimated carbon footprints of 500g CO2eq per dose, compared to 20g in DPIs.

MDIs are more commonly prescribed in the UK compared to other European countries, where DPIs make up a greater proportion of inhaler prescriptions. This is due to historic prescribing habits.

DPIs work just as well as MDIs, but if you are used to MDI inhalers you may find that it takes a short time to get used to the slightly different technique of using them. Please see the videos below on the Asthma UK website on how to use the two different type of inhaler. When using an MDI it is best to breathe slowly and deeply, and with a DPI it best to breathe in quickly and deeply. DPIs are not used with a spacer.

Both the regular preventer inhaler (normally brown) and the salbutamol reliever inhaler (the blue one) come in MDI and DPI forms. Currently we are mostly recommending that patients consider just switching their preventer inhaler to a DPI, as MDI salbutamol inhalers with a spacer are easier to use in an acute asthma attack.

There are slightly different types of DPI depending on the brand, and we will always send you an instruction video to show you exactly how to use your specific type of DPI inhaler.

One more important thing to do from an environmental perspective for your inhalers is to return then to your pharmacy after they are finished for recycling or incineration, as putting them in household waste releases any remaining greenhouse gases into the environment.

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