The month of June kicks off with a bang, with the first of many price adjustments on inhalers. It is a welcome relief for patients with asthma and COPD. This price change could have rippling effects like we have seen in the past, but there are some differences

What We Can Expect

As with the insulin price cuts in 2023, when one manufacturer changed their prices, others followed. This led to three press releases in March 2024 from Boehringer Ingelheim, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline. Each manufacturer’s announcement pointed to a desire to improve affordability for patients. Like insulin savings, these moves come after lawmaker criticism on pricing of these agents in the United States.

Unlike insulin, these price caps did not come with a great extent of list price adjustments. As many inhaler devices are newer, they are not as impacted as the older insulin products by the elimination of the Medicaid prescription drug rebate cap.

The sheer volume of products impacted by the price changes has created an entirely new pricing structure — and new decisions for plan sponsors. With inhalers, some price cuts have come, but to a small number of products.

The result: while patients will notice less of a hit at the pharmacy, plan sponsors may not appreciate as much of a cost-savings impact.

Summary of Inhaler Pricing Changes in March 2024

Let’s break down the basics of the announced inhaler pricing changes as well as how patients can access co-pay cards.

Boehringer Ingelheim

Leading the charge as the first to announce a price cap going into effect on June 1, 2024, the cap will be set at $35/month. The company has announced that this change will automatically apply at the pharmacy counter for patients with commercial insurance.

Co-pay Card Access: If a patient’s pharmacy is not participating, they can visit the manufacturer’s website to enroll in a co-pay assistance card that will reduce their price.

Specific Inhaler Products Include:

  • Atrovent HFA
  • Combivent Respimat
  • Spiriva HandiHaler and Respimat
  • Stiolto Respimat
  • Striverdi Respimat

Boehringer Ingelheim also announced plans to cut the list price for Spiriva Handihaler and Atrovent HFA. More details can be found in the full press release.

AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca announced their price cap starting June 1, 2024. The cap will be set at $35/month but at this point, there are no specific details on whether the discount will apply automatically at the pharmacy counter.

Co-pay Card Access: The does include co-pay cards that patients can take to their pharmacy to aid in achieving savings.

Specific Inhaler Products Include:

  • Airsupra
  • Bevespi Aerosphere
  • Breztri Aerosphere
  • Symbicort

AstraZeneca previously announced a price reduction for Symbicort on January 1, 2024. More details can be found in the full press release.

GlaxoSmithKline

GSK announced their price caps will go into effect no later than January 1, 2025. The cap will be set at $35/month with specific details shared closer to the launch date.

Co-pay Card Access: While the cap has not launched yet, the does already contain some co-pay assistance cards that may offer some assistance.

Specific Inhaler Products Include:

  • Advair Diskus and HFA
  • Anoro Ellipta
  • Arnuity Ellipta
  • Breo Ellipta
  • Incruse Ellipta
  • Serevent Diskus
  • Trelegy Ellipta
  • Ventolin HFA

GlaxoSmithKline previously reduced the list price of Advair Diskus and HFA in January 2024 by 50% and 20%, respectively. More details can be found in the full press release.

What’s Next for Inhaler Pricing Changes?

While inhaler pricing caps cover a broad spectrum of agents, it is not all-inclusive. One notable absence from the list is Pulmicort, a commonly used agent for pediatric patients. In addition, AirDuo, Dulera, Asmanex, and Qvar are also absent from announcements.

It is also worth noting that the only albuterol inhaler on the list is Ventolin HFA. While these rescue inhalers do come at a better list price than other inhalers, there is still potential for cost savings for patients in this space.

Not all inhaler announcements have been positive this year. In January, GSK discontinued Flovent Diskus and HFA, both commonly used in pediatric patients. While an authorized generic was released, it has not found its way onto all PBM formularies. This is because even after rebates, the price of this authorized generic is higher than the previous net cost of the brand name products.

 

Inhaler pricing is in a state of constant change — like many other critical medications. Patients, and plan sponsors need the latest information to ensure they are maximizing savings without disrupting access to care. If you have any questions about inhalers, other medications or any other element of your pharmacy benefits, our pharmacist-led team would love to help. Just click the link below to reach out.

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