Asthma Savings: How These Moms Get Cheaper Inhalers for Their Kids

Answered by Rebecca Farley | Reviewed by a licensed U.S. pharmacist | Posted December 07, 2020

Asthma can be an expensive condition — chronic conditions like diabetes always are. A $20 inhaler doesn’t sound like much until you multiply that by sixty years. Plus, given how much time you may have to invest in care, quick fixes aren’t going to help. Saving money on chronic conditions is a matter of long-term solutions like buying in bulk and getting a new health plan.

How do moms keep down asthma costs?

Moms Order Medication Online

One of the number one ways to keep drug costs down is to order medication via a delivery service. Your health insurance (if you have health insurance) likely has a mail-order program available. In some cases, your insurance company may require you to get mail-order prescriptions in order to qualify for coverage. From PharmacyChecker’s perspective, this is needless gatekeeping for necessary health coverage. Still, these programs tend to have lower copays than your local pharmacy. They may also allow for 90-day prescriptions, and buying in bulk is a handy way to save money.

In 2018, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that 14 million U.S. residents relied on the USPS for medication delivery. This became a bit of a rallying cry when the USPS started suffering in the summer of 2020.

Moms Buy Inhalers From Canada

Most drugs are cheaper in Canada. (Actually, the KFF estimates that drugs in Canada are just 28% the cost of drugs in the U.S. on average. That’s nearly three-quarters off!) Inhalers are, too. The Ventolin HFA is just $0.08 per dose at PharmacyChecker-accredited pharmacies. Advair Diskus is just $0.38 per dose.

Asthma meds from Canada:

Moms Use Coupons

Drug coupons can come in handy, although they are not long-term solutions. Drug coupons frequently come from the pharmaceutical company itself and are not available to those on public insurance. (Otherwise, doctors could use these coupons to force federal programs to spend more money on expensive medications.) Still, they can come in handy, especially with children’s medication, which is a charismatic cause. The Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin has a handy guide to different drug coupons for asthma medications.

Coupon:

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Why are asthma medications so expensive?

Asthma medications are not expensive because of albuterol, the ingredient in asthma inhalers. Per GoodRx, albuterol is $53.50 per 8.5g of the medication. Asthma treatments are expensive because the inhalers are patent-protected precious jewels in pharma’s treasure trove. (In this analogy, Big Pharma is a greedy dragon.) As Mother Jones explains, the pharma inhaler disaster is a result of pharma lobbying to replace CFC inhalers, which were potentially harmful to the ozone layer. Though this seems like the right move environmentally, it’s another tale of Big Pharma profiting from seeming good behavior. Big Pharma took advantage of the removal of the CFC inhalers to introduce heavily patented new inhalers. Enter: the era of the $98 inhaler with insurance.

This is actually a popular Pharma practice called “evergreening,” in which pharmaceutical companies use minor innovations to renew patent exclusivity. Things like extended-release release drugs or drugs in “gel” formulations are all part of Pharma’s patent-extending gimmicks. An inhaler is a great opportunity for evergreening: It’s a gadget that, for those with asthma, is inelastic, i.e. they cannot live without it. So long as pharma companies keep making them, those with asthma have to keep buying them.

Related: Why are drug prices so high in the U.S.?

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Can I order inhalers from Canada?

Yes, you absolutely can. Check out this Seattle Times Q + A where a patient describes getting their inhalers from Canada at a great discount. Remember that it is not expressly legal to import

your own drugs over borders, but the FDA generally does not prosecute people for doing so. You can’t import addictive medications like Xanax (alprazolam), but an inhaler is an easy sell.

Comparing Asthma Medication Prices U.S. vs. International

Drug Strength Quantity U.S. Average Price PharmacyChecker Discount Card Price Lowest Accredited International Pharmacy Price Greatest Percentage Savings
ProAir HFA (brand name) 8.5g of 90mcg 1 hfa inhaler (approx. 200 doses) $79 $71.93 $46.99 68%
Proventil HFA (brand name) 6.7g of 90mcg 1 hfa inhaler $100.36 $84.64 $113.95 16%
Proventil HFA (generic) 6.7g of 90mcg 1 hfa inhaler $49.08 N/A $21.23 56%
Advair HFA (brand name) 115g of 21mcg 1 hfa inhaler $475 N/A $35.33 93%

Sources: Average U.S. Retail Price calculated based on pricing on GoodRx.com. PharmacyChecker U.S. Discount Card Price based on availability at pharmacies near New Orleans, Louisiana. Lowest Accredited International Pharmacy Price based on prices listed on PharmacyChecker.com.

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The generics are coming

How do drug prices go down? Until the government puts some reins on this drug pricing nonsense, all we have to push down drug prices is competitive pricing through generic competition. (But even generic alternatives sometimes don’t cut it.) It is the lack of competitive pricing — the introduction of fancier, non-CFC inhalers — that got us here in the first place.

The good news is, the FDA is actively approving generic inhalers. In 2019, three inhalers got their cheaper counterparts: Advair Diskus, Ventolin HFA, and Proair HFA. In April 2020, the FDA approved a generic version of Proventil HFA, a popular inhaler. Being brand new, these generics have yet to drive down competition, but they will in time. Rest assured that, for inhaler prices, the calvary is coming. For now, compare prices at PharmacyChecker.com.

 
 

Consumer safety above all.

Browse our approved list of Canadian online pharmacies that are vetted for patient safety

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Compare drug prices among reputable online pharmacies

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