The Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which regulates the safety of drugs and medical devices in the UK, has issued a drug alert advising that Glaxo Wellcome UK has recalled two batches of Ventolin Accuhaler and one batch of Seretide Accuhaler asthma inhalers. A manufacturing issue has resulted in a small proportion of the devices not delivering the full number of doses.

Accuhalers are used by patients to relieve or maintain their asthma, an airways and lung disease characterised by shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness and coughing.

The Seretide Accuhaler, used for maintenance treatment, is being recalled from hospitals, pharmacies, retailers and wholesalers across the UK. The two lots of Ventolin Accuhalers are reliever inhalers, used when a patient experiences asthmatic symptoms known as asthma attacks. Although all three batches of inhalers have been recalled, they may already have been circulated to some patients.

Patients with faulty inhalers might find that their symptoms are not relieved as usual, which could be frightening and mean they are more likely to have an asthma attack. In severe cases patients are at risk of respiratory failure if they are unable to maintain safe levels of oxygen in their blood. Dr Andy Whittamore, clinical lead at Asthma UK and a practising GP, said it was "extremely worrying" and "could put people's lives at risk".

The manufacturer, Glaxo Wellcome UK, says that only a small proportion of the units are defective, as follows:

  • Ventolin 200mcg - Accuhaler 1x60D, 786G, exp 05/2019
  • Ventolin 200mcg - Accuhaler 1x60D, 754P, exp 05/2019
  • Seretide 50/250mcg - Accuhaler 1x60D, 5K8W, exp 04/2019

Other asthma inhalers, including the more commonly used Ventolin Evohaler, are said not to be affected.

Arran Macleod, an associate in Penningtons Manches’ product liability team, said: “It is worrying that asthmatic patients may be carrying with them inhalers that do not work. They could be at risk of serious complications if they are unable to control their asthma during an asthma attack. We urge everyone who carries an inhaler to check if their device is from the affected batch and, if so, seek medical advice about a replacement.