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Many Cannot Afford New Asthma Inhalers

Posted by John on October 15th, 2008

Writing an opinion column for Abilene Online, Kathy Bunkey points out that the new asthma inhalers, mandatory beginning in 2009, will be too expensive for some:

The worst part of this is that a lot of the people who need this medication in an emergency situation will no longer be able to afford it. This will specifically affect the disabled, the children whose parents cannot afford this increase, the jobless and the elderly. There is no generic for this new medication. We are being offered Pro Air HPA, Xopenex HPA and Proventil HPA, and the cheapest that I was able to find one of these in Abilene was for around $25. They can retail for as much as over $55 per inhaler.

The new HFA inhalers will replace CFC inhalers (chlorofluorocarbon inhalers), which are being banned because they release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. But CFC inhalers are one-third the cost of the new HFA inhalers.

One reason why they’re so expensive is because no generic versions of the medication will be available – only brand names. And the cheapest inhaler runs at about $25, as opposed to about to $13.50 for the cheapest CFC inhaler.

Moreover, according to The New York Times, the new inhalers feel different, taste different, and deliver the medication with less force. If patients are not educated about these changes, they may not be able to use the new inhalers properly.

Nancy Sadler, president of the Allergy and Asthma Network of Mothers and Asthmatics, says, “There is no education, no monitoring of patients, no financial assistance to patients who have to pay higher prices for the new drugs.”

She fears that the introduction of the new inhalers – and the banning of the old CFC inhalers – may lead to more trips to the emergency room for asthmatics.

Studies show that the new HFA inhalers are just as effective, but there are critical differences of which asthma patients must be aware:

1. HFA inhalers must be pumped four times for priming; this is critical.

2. HFA inhalers have a weaker spray. Some people think it’s not working, but the new inhalers simply have a different feel.

3. HFA inhalers require a slower inhale. You have to take a slow breath and hold it. This may lead to people taking too many puffs or getting anxious because they think it’s not working.

HFA inhalers also need to be washed with warm water and air dried at least once a week to work properly. The new inhalers clog more easily without proper maintenance.

As asthma medication becomes more expensive, it’s important for asthma patients to realize that they can reduce symptoms by controlling their indoor environment.

For instance, air purifiers reduce the need for asthma medication. Other environmental control measures can also reduce the need for medication. See Dealing with Asthma for more information. However, if you have asthma, you must always follow your doctor’s orders. Never stop or reduce the use of asthma medication without first consulting your physician.

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