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Biden Administration Extends Efforts for $35 Monthly Asthma Inhaler Price Cap

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President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders continue their push to cut the cost of asthma inhalers and prescription drugs in the US.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders (I, Vermont) hosted a White House event focusing on high prescription drug prices and urging companies to cut the cost of inhalers for patients with asthma, according to Reuters.1

Pills, thermometer, inhaler and money on a red background | Sebastian - stock.adobe.com

Pills, thermometer, inhaler and money on a red background | Sebastian - stock.adobe.com

Biden, who has made lowering health care costs a key part of his 2024 reelection campaign, revealed that prescription drugs made by the same pharmaceutical company cost at least 2 to 3 times more in the US than in countries such as Canada, Italy, and France.

"Drug companies are charging exorbitant, exorbitant prescription drug prices, higher prices than anywhere in the world," said Biden.1

The event came as 3 major pharmaceutical companies—AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, and GSK—have recently announced that they will enact a monthly $35 price cap on their inhaler products, with 2 caps set to take effect on June 1, 2024.2

“Greater access to more affordable medications will help improve the health and wellness of people with asthma,” said Lynda Mitchell, MA, CAE, CEO of Allergy & Asthma Network (AAN), in a statement to Healio.3 “Too often we have seen patients forgo or delay filling their asthma inhaler prescription due to high costs. High prices of inhalers not only affect people who are uninsured or underinsured—they can also affect people who choose a high-deductible health insurance plan.”

These price caps will apply at retail pharmacies and should be particularly helpful among individuals who are uninsured or underinsured.2


Boehringer Ingelheim inhalers affected by the price cap include:

  • Atrovent HFA (ipratropium bromide HFA) inhalation aerosol
  • Combivent Respimat (ipratropium bromide and albuterol) inhalation spray
  • Spiriva HandiHaler (tiotropium bromide inhalation powder)
  • Spiriva Respimat 1.25 mcg (tiotropium bromide) inhalation spray
  • Spiriva Respimat 2.5 mcg (tiotropium bromide) inhalation spray
  • Stiolto Respimat (tiotropium bromide and olodaterol) inhalation spray
  • Striverdi Respimat (olodaterol) inhalation spray

AstraZeneca inhalers affected by the price cap include:

  • AIRSUPRA (albuterol and budesonide)
  • Bevespi Aerosphere (glycopyrrolate and formoterol fumarate) inhalation aerosol
  • Breztri Aerosphere® (budesonide, glycopyrrolate, and formoterol fumarate) inhalation aerosol
  • Symbicort (budesonide and formoterol fumarate dihydrate) inhalation aerosol

GSK inhalers affected by the price cap include:

  • Advair Diskus (fluticasone propionate and salmeterol inhalation powder)
  • Advair HFA (fluticasone propionate and salmeterol inhalation aerosol)
  • Anoro Ellipta (umeclidinium and vilanterol inhalation powder)
  • Arnuity Ellipta (fluticasone furoate inhalation powder)
  • Breo Ellipta (fluticasone furoate and vilanterol inhalation powder)
  • Incruse Ellipta (umeclidinium inhalation powder)
  • Serevent Diskus (salmeterol xinafoate inhalation powder)
  • Trelegy Ellipta (fluticasone furoate, umeclidinium, and vilanterol inhalation powder)
  • Ventolin HFA (albuterol sulfate inhalation aerosol)

AAN has applauded the decision made by these corporations, believing these caps will make treatment more affordable to patients, with the hopes that other drugs will start to see price caps.

“Allergy & Asthma Network supports all efforts to reduce out-of-pocket costs of inhalers and expand access to respiratory care,” said Mitchell in a statement.2 “We are pleased to see these major drug companies provide a solution. More voluntary price controls like this will help ensure people with asthma and COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] get the medication they need and treatment they deserve without having to bear the high costs.”

However, while these pharmaceutical companies stated they will continue to offer patient assistance programs, discounts, and rebates for inhalers, they also noted they cannot control any inhaler fees added on by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs).

This concern was also brought up by Alex Schriver, a spokesperson for the trade group PhRMA, remarking on the White House event.

"When companies have introduced lower-priced versions of their medicines, insurers and PBMs have refused to cover them because they make less money," Schriver told Reuters.1

Despite plans by AstraZeneca, Boehringer, and GSK to cap costs, Biden and Sanders say it is not enough and more needs to be done to make prescription medications more affordable to patients. Additionally, the Biden administration aims to target what it considers falsely claimed patents to increase competition and lower inhaler costs.

"Despite all that we have accomplished up to now, it is not enough. Much, much more needs to be done," said Sanders.1 "This is an issue that we must, must get a handle on."

References

1. Holland S, Bose N. Biden, senator Bernie Sanders push companies to cut cost of asthma inhalers, prescription drugs. Reuters. April 3, 2024. Accessed April 4, 2024. https://www.reuters.com/world/us/biden-senator-sanders-highlight-efforts-lower-cost-asthma-inhalers-2024-04-03/

2. Drug companies step forward with voluntary price caps on inhalers. Allergy & Asthma Network. News release. March 21, 2024. Accessed April 4, 2024. https://allergyasthmanetwork.org/news/drug-company-asthma-inhaler-price-cap/

2. Langowska V. Allergy & asthma network says $35 inhaler price cap will improve health, wellness. Healio. April 2, 2024. Accessed April 4, 2024. https://www.healio.com/news/allergy-asthma/20240402/allergy-asthma-network-says-35-inhaler-price-cap-will-improve-health-wellness

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