Cost of Inhalers – Many Medicare Beneficiaries With COPD Struggle To Pay For Inhalers

Cost of Inhalers – A Problem for Many with COPD

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.”

Woman comments on the cost of inhalers

67 year old woman with COPD commented about the cost of inhalers in the Kaiser Health News report

Medicare Spends Billions

What Can You Do? 

Even with only monthly co-pays, many Medicare enrollees can’t afford their inhalers. Here are FIVE 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. 5. The website – – invites viewers to request a Drug Discount Card that may save on the cost of prescribed medications.

My Breathing is Worse… What Should I Do?

Breathing is Worse Requires Medical Assessment

Dear Dr. Mahler:

I am 72 years old and take Advair twice a day for my COPD. About 5 weeks ago my arm swelled up, and my primary care doctor thought it was due to an insect bite. She prescribed an antibiotic. When it did not get better, I saw my oncologist who diagnosed that the swelling was due to a blockage in my armpit because my previous breast cancer had spread to the lymph glands. I just completed 4 weeks of radiation treatments.

I am writing to you because my breathing has been worse for the past month or so. I went to the Emergency Room two weeks ago to be checked out. A CT scan was normal except for emphysema. There was no blood clot to my lungs. What should I do? I am using albuterol 2 -3 times per day, but it really doesn’t help much. I do take Ativan every couple of days because I have been feeling anxious.

Linda from Montpelier, VT

Dear Linda:

Sorry to hear about the cancer recurrence.

Regarding your shortness of breath, it is important to have breathing tests done and your oxygen saturation checked to see if these results show any changes. Without this information, it is impossible to know if your breathing is worse because of your COPD or another reason, such as anemia, anxiety, being out of shape (reduced physical activity while you were receiving your radiation treatments, and possible heart disease. All of these conditions are common causes for chronic breathing difficulty.

Oximeter which measures the percentage of oxygen being carried by hemoglobin in the blood

Oximeter which measures the percentage of oxygen being carried by hemoglobin in the blood

Spirometry performed to assess why Breathing is Worse

Woman performing breathing test.







Donald A. Mahler, M.D.