Asthma Inhaler Alert: Generic Swap Raises Concerns

Asthma Inhaler Alert: Generic Swap Raises Concerns

Asthma inhaler Flovent will not be available at pharmacies starting Monday, and its maker says an “authorized generic” version will take its place.

Some doctors are concerned their patients might have trouble replacing it and finding insurance coverage.

The manufacturer of the generic version is GSK. Doctors say that version is just as effective, but it is not as widely covered by insurance companies. Some people will need new prescriptions and have to figure out coverage issues at the height of respiratory virus season.

“This medication has been the most commonly used inhaled medication for the past 25 or 30 years,” Robyn Cohen, MD, of Boston Medical Center. “It’s the one that, overwhelmingly, pediatricians reach for when they decide that their patient needs a daily preventive medication. … The fact that it’s being discontinued is going to be a huge shock to the system for patients, for families and for doctors.”

GSK is making the change “as part of our commitment to be ambitious for patients,” a spokeswoman said. The generic versions of Flovent HFA, an inhalation aerosol, and Flovent Diskus, an inhalation powder, “will provide patients in the US with potentially lower cost alternatives of these medically important products.”

Experts say GSK is making the switch on January 1, when a change in Medicaid rebates could bring large penalties because of price increases on Flovent over the years. 

The price has gone up about 47% in nine years, according to data from GoodRx.

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