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Asthma

Cost and Availability of Asthma Drugs

11/03/2006

Question:

I called my dr. about an asthma flare. My dr. called in an additional prescription for me.

When I got to the pharmacy they told me the cost of the prescription, an inhaled steroid, was $187.50 and there is no generic.

I don`t have health insurance and don`t have that much money. Thats more than my car payment, which I can`t skip anyway, I need a car. I couldn`t afford the prescription so I came home without it.

I had specifically told my dr that I don`t have insurance and need the cheapest possible solution.

My Peak Flows have been way down, like less than 70% of what it should be, and I`ve been having alot of symptoms and pretty uncomfortable. So obviously I need to do something.

But is a $187.50 inhaler really the least expensive possible choice that would work? (Obviously the medication won`t help at all if its too expensive for me to bring it home from the pharmacy in the first place.)

What about oral steroids? I`ve had that before, where you start out with a high dose and then taper off to nothing over several days. I know that has more side effects, which I don`t like either, but isn`t that a lot cheaper & accomplish the same thing?

Answer:

There are several cheaper topical steroid preparations which are relatively equivalent (but not always). You should get this information from the pharmacist and then check with your doctor about whether the substitution would be effective with your current clinical status. Some drug companies offer substantial  discounts (and sometimes completely total) in patients who do not have insurance. Your doctor should check this out for you. Oral steroids (prednisone) are much cheaper but ideally should not be prescribed as a substitute for inhaled steroids because of their side effects.

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Response by:

I Leonard Bernstein, MD I Leonard Bernstein, MD
Clinical Professor Emeritus
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati