It's 2009, and that means we are all being forced to switch officially to the HFA type of asthma inhaler. Many other posts here have dealt with the whys and wherefores of this regulatory change, and you can read all about them on our HFA Inhalers page.
It's a fact that many people do not feel as though they're getting the same level of relief from the HFA inhalers, especially the HFA rescue inhalers, despite the fact that experts keep telling us that doesn't make sense. One thing is for sure, the HFA inhalers seem to be a permanent change we people with asthma are going to have to accept and get used to.
One of the other fall outs from this change, though, is a financial one. Because the HFA inhalers are all new to the market in the past couple of years, there are no generic versions available. (It takes 7 years for patent protection to expire, before generics can enter a pharmaceutical market.) And brand name medications are always more expensive. Again, I'm not here to debate the reasons why. It's sufficient to say that we're all going to pay a lot more for our asthma medication over the next few years, unless you're lucky enough to have health insurance that covers it.
So, what are we to do? Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to reduce your costs for your inhalers, at least for a time.
1. Ask your doctor for samples. There aren't as many samples available these days, but still, it never hurts to ask your doctor. You never know what might be sitting around.
2. Request discount coupons from the pharmaceutical manufacturer for your inhaler brand. Most of them offer some kind of coupons online now, usually just for one purchase or a limited amount of time, but still, any little savings counts, right?
- http://www.proairhfa.com/PatientAssistance.aspx (Proair HFA)
- http://www.proventilhfa.com (Proventil HFA)
- http://www.xopenex.com/patientAssistance/patient-assistance.html (Xopenex HFA)
- http://www.ashp.org (Ventolin HFA)
3. Join a generalized pharmaceutical assistance program. There are a number of pharmacy discount programs available for people who don't have health insurance with a prescription plan. Here are a few to get you started:
4. Shop around at different pharmacies. Drug costs can vary widely from pharmacy to pharmacy, so it really can pay to shop around for the best price. To save on gas, do your comparison shopping by phone. Once you find the best price, if you don't want to have to switch pharmacies, you can always ask your current pharmacy to match the lowest price.
5. Buy online. You can save money by buying your medication from an online pharmacy, but if you choose this option, do it safely and legally, from a reputable and USDA approved online pharmacy.
If you do have prescription drug insurance, you can still save on co-pays by enrolling in a prescriptions by mail program. In addition, save money on other drugs so you can better afford your asthma inhalers by going generic. For instance, you can often get a 90-day supply of generic pills for $10 from "big box" stores such as Walmart, Target and Costco. And if you buy over the counter medications, go for the store-brand generic equivalent. They'll be a lot cheaper and contain the same exact medication.
Finally, people with asthma are often started with a higher dose of medication initially than they'll really need over the long-term, once symptoms are under control. So, ask your doctor whether it might be possible to "step down" your treatment to a slightly lower level.
Hopefully, by adopting at least some of these strategies, you can keep your asthma treatment from breaking the bank.