More than 25 million people in the United States rely on respiratory inhalers to relieve asthma-related symptoms. In 2008, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ban eliminated albuterol inhalers using ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbon (CFC). As these generic inhalers became unavailable, the only albuterol inhalers left on the market were the more expensive, branded inhalers that use hydrofluoroalkane (HFA).
A recent study found that the inhaler ban led to a substantial increase in out-of-pocket costs for individuals and a modest decline in albuterol inhaler use among privately insured individuals with asthma.
“The average costs per prescription increased from $14 to $25 in the first quarter of 2009 after the inhaler ban went into effect,” said co-author Dr. Pinar Karaca-Mandic, associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. “By the end of 2010 prices declined to $21. While there was much variation across health plans, almost half of all plans had increases in the out-of-pocket albuterol inhaler costs exceeding $10.”
The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The study states that further investigation is needed to discern the impact of the FDA ban on people without insurance.
“As the FDA moves forward banning other drugs due to environmental concerns, the availability of generic medication in the market can be an important consideration for assessing whether patients have affordable access to care,” said Dr. Karaca-Mandic.