Democrats push more drug makers to lower the price of inhalers

WASHINGTON D.C. — More than 27 million people are living with asthma in the U.S. including about four million children. But many of them are forced to ration their life-saving inhalers because they’re so expensive.


Lawmakers say an inhaler can cost as much as $600 each if you don’t have insurance but the same brands cost just a fraction of that in Europe.

Anne Shoup is one of those millions with asthma. She said she can afford her medication, but with rising prices, that isn’t case for many Americans especially low-income families, minorities and seniors.

Many of them end up rationing their supply - which can be a matter of life and death.

“It’s really a medication you need to survive…and if you are struggling to breathe, then you know a rescue inhaler can save your life,” said Anne Shoup with Protect Our Care.

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That’s why she joined Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill Wednesday pushing for lower prices.

“Patients should not go without the medicine and treatments they need because of high prices and steep out of pocket costs imposed by their health insurance companies,” said Rep. Jake Auchincloss, (D) Massachusetts.

Earlier this year, several Democratic leaders criticized the four major inhaler manufacturers for having significantly higher prices in the U.S. compared to other countries. Since then, GSK, AstraZeneca and Boehringer Ingelheim have announced plans to drop the price of inhalers to $35/month.

But lawmaker says there’s still one major hold-out.

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“Teva you’re up,” said Rep. Auchincloss. “We’re calling on Teva and all the other inhaler manufacturers to institute such a cap as well.”

We reached out to Teva for a statement, but we haven’t heard back.

We also talked with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) which represents GSK and Boehringer Ingelheim. They believe insurance companies need to step up too.

“When companies have introduced lower priced versions of their medicines, insurers and PBMs have refused to cover them because they make less money,” said Alex Schriver, SVP of Public Affairs at PhRMA in a written statement.

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Patients who use AstraZeneca and Boehringer Ingelheim inhalers aren’t seeing lower prices just yet. They’ll pay $35 for their medication, starting in June. GSK will implement lower prices no later than January 1, 2025.

Full statement from PhRMA:

“We are proud of the work of our members to take action and address insurance failures to lower costs and expand access. Biopharmaceutical companies provide significant rebates and discounts that have continued to lower net prices, yet insurers and PBMs aren’t sharing those savings with patients at the pharmacy counter. When companies have introduced lower priced versions of their medicines, insurers and PBMs have refused to cover them because they make less money. In the absence of broader reforms, our companies are taking action to help. They are expanding their patient assistance and have announced a $35 cap on what patients pay out of pocket. As the lawmakers made clear this morning, we need to address the abusive tactics from PBMs and insurers to fix the system and help patients.” Alex Schriver, SVP of Public Affairs at PhRMA

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