Escalating Cost of Asthma Treatment : What You Can Do

James Thompson, MD Health Pro February 11, 2009
  • Okay, the economy is tanking, job security for many people is at an all-time low, cost of health insurance is increasing and medication costs are sky-rocketing. My comments will address healthcare expenses with emphasis on medication costs.

     

    What can you do?

     

    For many asthma sufferers the disappearance of generic albuterol has been a double whammy. The new HFA-based inhalers cost more and yet some people say they don't seem to be as effective (but please be assured that they are as effective).

     

    Here is what you can do:  

    • When you are in your doctor's office ask him/her about discount coupons for any brands of the new inhalers (or other medications). Kathi MacNaughton makes excellent suggestions and provides several links for more information in her posting: "5 Ways  to Save Money on the New HFA Inhalers". There are new priming and cleaning specifications for the new HFA inhalers that should not be overlooked. Following the tips posted on this link may improve your response to the HFA reliever inhalers: "New HFA inhalers for Asthma..."
    • If you have a controller medication for asthma (often an inhaled steroid) try not to miss any doses. Controller medications are to be taken regularly until instructed to stop (or instructed to step down the dose). If effective, controllers will reduce your need for albuterol and additional asthma medication.
    • Have your inhaler technique checked by the doctor or nurse multiple times during the course of a year in order to insure proper doses of the medication are being drawn in. You want to get the most out of your medications. This will not only save you money but also improve your health.
    • Inform your doctor about any temporary or long-term financial hardships. Some pharmaceutical companies have special programs to help people in these circumstances. At the very least, the pharmaceutical representative may, by request from your doctor, leave a few extra samples to be given to you.
    • Assist your doctor in selecting an appropriate inhaler that may be less expensive by bringing in the list of approved drugs (often provided by your health insurance or medication card service). Even when there are no available generics of a specific drug there may be alternative brands that are less costly because your insurance has them listed on a lower tier of co-payment. You have access to this information, just request it.

     

    What about those expensive nasal sprays and antihistamine pills taken in addition to asthma inhalers?

    Here is what you can do:

    • There are generic forms of some nasal steroid sprays and antihistamines. Your doctor may select a particular brand of nasal spray for your treatment plan. A generic alternative may be considered if you request it. They are often just as effective. Over the counter (OTC) antihistamines (Zyrtec, Claritin) may be cheaper when purchased in bulk (large quantities) and in generic formulations. You pay more initially but the price per pill may go down when larger amounts are purchased (ask the pharmacist first).
    • Some of the larger retail chains (Wal-Mart, Target) have lower prices on generics and periodically have sales on specific medications. Keep checking the newspaper and internet for this information. Ask the pharmacist if any of your OTC medication will be going on sale.

     

  • Doctor visits becoming less affordable?

    • Again, inform your doctor about financial hardships instead of missing appointments. If you get sick and require an ED (emergency department) or Urgent Care visit it will cost you much more than a follow-up office visit. In addition, getting sick may result in you missing work or being less productive at work (this is called "Presenteeism"). You often spend more money on medications to treat asthma attacks.

     

    • Keep your scheduled appointments and review your Asthma Action Plan at your follow-up visit. A written plan addressing what steps to take to re-establish asthma control may be invaluable when concerned about healthcare costs.

     

    Bottom Line:

    Almost everyone is impacted by our down economy but preserving good health must remain a priority. Managing expenses becomes a real challenge but saving a few dollars by following some of the above tips may help you weather the storm.

     

    Have you discovered other helpful tips to save dollars on your asthma/allergy medications?