December 29, 2023
There’s a big change coming for asthma sufferers, starting on January 1. On Monday, Flovent, a widely used asthma inhaler made by GSK, will no longer be available in U.S. pharmacies. In its place will be an authorized generic version of the inhaler, reports Fast Company.
The company says the replacement will work just as well as Flovent. However, there’s growing concern in the medical community about how widely it will be covered by insurance providers.
As the change looms, doctors are starting to advise patients to hurry up and get their prescriptions filled now, and look into their coverage options for the new inhaler. While depending on an inhaler that will no longer be available is nerve-wracking, the fact that the changeover is taking place during cold and flu season—when respiratory struggles surge—is another chest-tightening worry.
In a November 2023 statement to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), GSK said, “It’s important to understand that the transition from branded to authorized generics will not have an impact on our ability to supply the market and we expect minimal disruption for patients.”
The statement continued, asserting that the inhaler “contains the same medicine, in the same familiar device, and with the same instructions for us as Flovent HFA.” The company also contended that the generic version may even “be a lower cost alternative to patients, depending on their insurance coverage and benefit design.”
Still, doctors are worried and are voicing their concerns, particularly when it comes to children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the discontinuation could “lead to higher co-pays and the need for prior authorizations that delay access.” But the group says there are already big challenges for kids who suffer from asthma and allergies when it comes to treatment options and coverage.
They believe the discontinuation highlights the fact that some insurers only cover breath-actuated inhalers, which aren’t recommended for children suffering from eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE). They also believe they can be difficult for younger children with asthma to use.
The North American Society For Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition (NASPGHAN) has released guidance for clinicians—recommending using generic fluticasone HFA. In the case that insurers won’t cover the generic inhaler, the group says oral viscous budesonide and swallowed topical Asmanex HFA or Alvesco HFA are the alternatives.
Flovent is being discontinued due to Medicaid rebate changes that would result in GSK having to pay penalties for increasing prices. Since 2014, the price of Flovent has gone up by around 47%.
Research contact: @FastCompany