Spanish researchers have shown that asthma inhalers can give readings in breath alcohol tests that are, in most cases, above the legal limit fixed by Spanish traffic police. Most worrying is the fact that aerosols without ethanol as the vehicle produced false positive results, says University of CA?diz pharmacologist Juan Manuel Ignacio-GarcA-a, lead author of the report (Medicina Clinica 2002;118:332-4).
Readings were taken at 1, 2, 3, 5, and 10 minutes after puffing. At baseline all readings were negative, but all the inhalers resulted in positive readings in the first few minutes after administration, the values decreasing rapidly and linearly to zero at 10 minutes.
THE RESEARCH DOESN'T LIE
The researchers then compared the effects of inhalers with and without alcohol as a vehicle in two groups of five patients. Each group was administered two puffs of either Butoasma (salbutamol with ethanol) or Ventolin (salbutamol without ethanol). No significant differences between the groups were found at baseline.
At one minute, the mean readings on the breath test were 0.45 mg/l (SD 0.17) in the patients who were given Butoasma and 0.35 (0.21) in patients given Ventolin.
Dr Ignacio-GarcA-a says the only confounding factor that could have led to the false positive result in the study was the propellant gases used in the aerosols, in particular chlorofluorocarbons. H
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