Cost of Inhalers – A Problem for Many with COPDJune 5, 2017 Kaiser Health News reported many Medicare enrollees with COPD struggle to pay for the inhalers they need. The article reports that some patients skip doses or rely on physicians to provide them free samples for some doses, because of the high cost, which drives some patients into Medicare’s “doughnut hole.” The article commented that many of those with Medicare insurance are on fixed income that needs to pay for rent/mortgage, car payment, Medicare premiums, and other living expenses. As one 67 year old woman stated in the article, “I got to stretch out that, plus I have the less costly medicines that I have to pay for and also my oxygen. You can only stretch it so far.” Medicare Spends Billions
Medicare Part D is called Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage. It helps to cover cost of prescription drugs, may lower your costs, and hopefully protects against higher costs. The cost of inhalers adds up quickly for Medicare. In 2015, the top five inhalers by spending were prescribed to nearly 7.5 million Medicare Part D
beneficiaries. The top FIVE inhalers for total Medicare Part D spending in 2015 are Advair Diskus and Metered-dose inhaler ($2.4 Billion), Spiriva HandiHaler (Respimat was approved in September 2014) ($2.3 Billion), Symbicort ($1.2 Billion), ProAir ($564 Million), and Combivent ($496 Million). The first four inhalers are also approved and used in those with asthma.
What Can You Do?
Even with only monthly co-pays, many Medicare enrollees can’t afford their inhalers. Here are FOUR options to consider: 1. Ask your health care professional whether he/she has samples of the inhaler. In my practice, I usually provide samples for 2 – 4 weeks of a particular inhaler and schedule the person to return to hear whether the medication has made it easier to breathe. 2. Many pharmaceutical companies provide vouchers that cover the cost for the first month (or more) of a new prescription. Ask you health care professional if he/she has vouchers. 3. Look on line-in for coupons that provide a discount of the cost of the inhaler. 4. Pharmaceutical companies may offer a patient assistance program. I have some patients who receive free supplies of one or more inhalers if he/she qualifies for assistance. You will required to provide personal financial information on an application. The information is typically available on-line or you can contact a social worker to help with the application process.