Earth Friendly Inhalers to Cost Those with Asthma

For the 6.5 million American children with asthma, newly mandated environmentally friendly inhalers will come at a greater cost to low- and middle-income families – most will see a significant increase in their prescription co-payments or out-of-pocket costs, especially since a generic version of the medication will not be available.

In a letter appearing in the current issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital pediatric allergist Harvey L. Leo, writes that the transition from chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) albuterol-metered dose inhalers to hydroflouroalkane (HFA) inhalers is an important one, but it could amount to a 200 percent to 400 percent increase in out-of-pocket costs for insured patients.

Even federal programs that help low-income families obtain asthma medications are expected to see a two- to threefold increase in cost since no generic medication will be available, he says.

"Our review suggests that the upcoming changes in the cost and availability of a truly generic albuterol-metered dose inhaler option will have significant financial impact on children and their families, especially in the current economic times," says Leo, adjunct clinical professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases at U-M C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and assistant research scientist at the Center for Managing Chronic Disease, U-M School of Public Health. "This may impact the quality of care and general health of all children with asthma."
With increased costs and more than 650,000 children with asthma who are uninsured, Leo worries that patients may try to save money by purchasing less effective medications to control their asthma, or using their medications less frequently than prescribed. He says such changes in recommended treatment plans would ultimately lead to increased risk for children with asthma, and the need for more urgent and costly care.

To protect the health of children with asthma, Leo urges federal and private insurance systems to take steps now to reduce the costs of HFA medications for the most vulnerable families.

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