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Flovent HFA Inhalers are Expensive: Here’s How to Lower your Costs

January 12, 2021

high drug prices

Around the globe, millions of people suffer from asthma, a chronic inflammation of the airways in the lungs that causes tightness of the chest, coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Every day, millions of Americans rely on various medications to help control their asthma.

In the United States alone, the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) most recent report shows that over 25 million Americans suffer from asthma. It is one of the country's most common — and most expensive — diseases. Asthma falls under the umbrella of common lower respiratory diseases (CLRDs), which includes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis.

While CLRDs are among the deadliest diseases around the globe, asthma can fortunately be controlled with regular treatment. While there is no cure for asthma, the use of medication, like the Flovent HFA inhaler, can help manage its impact. Unfortunately, inhalers are expensive — prohibitively so for many.

What Is a Flovent HFA Inhaler?

Flovent HFA (fluticasone propionate inhalation aerosol) is the brand name for a prescription inhalation aerosol medication used to help manage the effects of asthma in individuals. It has been approved for use in patients as young as four years old and, when inhaled regularly, is proven to prevent the symptoms of asthma. Flovent HFA uses a medicine called fluticasone propionate, a synthetic corticosteroid and common ingredient in asthma medications.

It is important to note that Flovent HFA is not a rescue inhaler and does not relieve sudden breathing problems as a symptom of asthma.

What Does HFA Stand For?

HFA stands for hydrofluoroalkane. Hydrofluoroalkane is a gas that is used as a propellant in inhalation medication. This propellant carries the medicinal ingredients into the lungs and airways.

The use of HFA is still relatively new, becoming the dominant form of delivery in inhalation medication in 2008. HFA inhalers replaced CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) inhalers due to the impact that CFCs have on the ozone layer.

Fluticasone Propionate

Fluticasone propionate, the active ingredient in Flovent HFA, is a synthetic corticosteroid. Corticosteroids are naturally found in the body and work to fight inflammation. In asthma inhalation medication, these synthetic corticosteroids reduce inflammation in the lungs and airways to minimize the symptoms of asthma.

A significant distinction to make is that corticosteroids are not the same as the anabolic steroids used to build muscle. Those steroids often have negative connotations associated with them due to side effects and health risks. Corticosteroids do not have these same side effects or risks and have long been recommended for use in asthma medications.

The Cost of Flovent HFA and Other Brand Name Inhalers

Flovent HFA (fluticasone propionate) is just one of many brand name inhalation medications prescribed throughout the United States. Some other common brand name inhalers include Asmanex (mometasone), Qvar (beclomethasone), and Pulmicort (budesonide), to name a few.

Like many other prescription medications in the United States, the cost of Flovent HFA can vary. A number of factors, such as the availability of health insurance and prescription coverage, coupons or discounts, local pharmacies, co-pays, and more all influence the cost of Flovent HFA and other prescription medications.

In recent years, the cost of asthma inhalers has jumped dramatically. In fact, in the last 10 years, the price of some of the most commonly prescribed asthma inhalers has increased by as much as 50%, far outpacing the average rate of inflation.

Specifically, Flovent HFA inhalers are one of the most expensive inhaled asthma medications sold in the United States. Depending on the dosage, a Flovent HFA inhaler can cost anywhere from $255 to $460. The lower dosage, 44mcg Flovent HFA inhaler costs $255 for 120 metered doses, or $2.13 per dose. In the middle, a 110mcg inhaler costs $305 for 120 doses, or $2.54 per dose. At the high end, a 220mcg inhaler will cost patients $460 for 120 doses, or $3.83 per dose.

Flovent and other asthma medications must be taken daily to be effective, meaning patients can expect to use three inhalers a year. At current US prices, Flovent can cost as much as $1,380 per year. With a number of health issues associated with asthma symptoms, that cost may be just the beginning.

Why Does Flovent HFA Cost So Much in the United States?

Since 2013, the cost of Flovent HFA inhalers has rapidly increased. In a Washington Post article, one patient described how while they once paid $330.98 for three inhalers, they now pay a similar price for just a single inhaler.

There are dozens of examples of medications being overpriced in the United States. A quick look at NorthWestPharmacy.com will make it easy to see that the majority of prescription medications cost far more in America than internationally. The cost of Flovent HFA is just one of the many examples.

There are a number of reasons that Flovent HFA and other inhalers cost so much in the United States. Three of those most impactful reasons are the lack of government price regulation, patent law, and, surprisingly to some, recent environmental protection efforts.

Government Rules and Regulations

Most national governments take an active role in regulating a country's healthcare operations and pharmaceutical manufacturing and sales in terms of the costs. In the United States, however, the federal government has a hands-off approach to healthcare costs, with relatively few regulations and rules concerning healthcare pricing.

The United States government has long left the country's healthcare up to the free market. In theory, competitive products, supply and demand, and consumer habits would level the playing field, forcing drug manufacturers to offer prescription medications at competitive prices. Instead, due in large part to drug patents — which we will discuss in a moment — this competition is nearly non-existent. Without competition or regulation on pricing, manufacturers can continue to charge whatever they like.

Patent Law Protects Prescriptions

Another factor in the high cost of Flovent HFA and other prescription medications in the United States is patent law. When a drug manufacturer receives a patent on a drug, they are given a period of time during which they alone can produce and distribute that drug without competition. The patent covers everything from the specific ingredient list and makeup as well as the delivery method. This is to help the manufacturer recoup the millions of dollars that went into research and development for that drug.

An unfortunate side-effect of that patent protection is that it eliminates competition for that medication. During the time of the patent protection, no other pharmaceutical manufacturer can produce that drug in that same way, meaning the patent-holding company can charge whatever they like without fear of consumers turning elsewhere for their medications.

It's easy for drug companies to get patents extended (or just new patents issued) by changing formulations or the delivery method. This is one of the reasons why inhalers increased in cost following the ban on CFCs.

Environmental Protection Efforts

A unique factor specific to the high cost of Flovent HFA and other inhalation medication has to do with recent environmental protection policies passed in both the 1980s, and more recently, the mid-2000s. For years, inhalation medications used chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) as a propellant to carry medication into the lungs and airways. While safe for use in inhalers, CFC is a greenhouse gas that is known to destroy the ozone layer. In the past, CFC was used in numerous products. That changed with the passing of the Montreal Act in the late 1980s. The act banned the use of CFC in products to help prevent further damage to the ozone layer. Inhalers, however, were determined to be essential medications and were exempt from the act.

In 2005, that changed again as the exception for inhalers was overturned, forcing inhaler manufacturers to turn instead to hydrofluoroalkane, or HFA. The switch to HFA took surprisingly little effort on the part of manufacturers. However, because the inhalers used a new ingredient and a change to their delivery method, manufacturers were able to receive fresh patents on their latest inhalers.

Suddenly, medications that would have been widely available in generic forms were protected once again due to patent law in the United States.

Tips to Lower the Cost of Flovent HFA and Make Your Prescription More Affordable

Fortunately, there are ways to lower the cost of Flovent HFA and make your prescription more affordable. Here are some tips to get you started.

Talk To Your Doctor About Generic Options

While patent law in the United States has limited the availability of generic asthma inhalers, it has not eliminated them completely, and there are still a number of generics that can be had for certain inhaler medications. Specifically, a generic version of Airduo, fluticasone/salmeterol, and Advair, also fluticasone/salmeterol, are currently available in the United States and similar to Flovent HFA. A generic version for Flovent HFA specifically is not yet available in the US, though it is available internationally.

Learning about generic medications can be difficult, especially with so many similar options with difficult-to-understand generic names. Not all generic options are available with the same strengths or doses as their brand name counterparts. Talking with your doctor is the best way to educate yourself and find available generic options that will work for you.

Ask About Coupons, Discounts, and Other Savings Options

While you're talking to your doctor, be sure to also ask about available coupons, discounts, or other savings options for prescription medications. Many pharmacies offer discounts or coupons if you use them to fill your prescriptions. Many brand name medications also offer specific savings plans to reach more potential patients.

Compare Pharmacies to Find the Best Price

Not all pharmacies are the same, despite the assumptions of many that medications cost the same regardless of where you fill them. Large corporate chain pharmacies often place profits over people and may charge different prices based on company goals or quarterly targets. It is absolutely within a patient's right to shop around before filling prescriptions to find the best price that meets your needs.

Look Abroad to an International Online Pharmacy

After evaluating costs at local pharmacies, be sure to spend some time researching pharmacies abroad. In nearly all cases, prescription medication, including Flovent HFA and other asthma inhalers, can be had at more affordable prices outside of the United States.

While shopping for medication online can be stressful or even intimidating for some, we take great pride at NorthWestPharmacy.com in ensuring an easy and secure ordering process with real-time, robust customer service support just a phone call away.

What Flovent HFA Costs in Canada (or Internationally) vs. the United States

Buying your Flovent HFA inhaler through NorthWestPharmacy.com can save you hundreds — even thousands — of dollars each year.

While a single 44mcg, 120-dose inhaler will cost $255 in the United States, that same inhaler is much more affordable from NorthWestPharmacy.com, costing just $40 per 120-dose inhaler. Similarly, the 110mcg inhaler ($305 in the United States, $60 in Canada/internationally) and the 220mcg inhaler ($460 in the US, $102 in Canada/internationally) are also significantly more affordable from NorthWestPharmacy.com.

In addition, NorthWestPharmacy.com offers the generic version of Flovent HFA, Fluticasone, at even more affordable costs. A 44mcg, 120-dose inhaler of Fluticasone costs just $33 while the 110mcg version costs just $47. A generic 220mcg, 120-dose inhaler is not available at this time.

Finding Affordable Flovent HFA Options Abroad

Asthma can be a devastating and lethal disease when left untreated and we believe that no one should be prevented from managing their asthma because of unaffordable inhalers.

At NorthWestPharmacy.com, we want to help people access the medications they need at a reasonable price. We also want to make the process of shifting to an online pharmacy as stress-free and easy as possible, which is why we emphasize customer service and encourage all prospective customers to contact us directly for a consultation.

NorthWestPharmacy.com is the most reviewed and independently five-star rated Canadian online pharmacy and international drugstore in the world. You can feel confident working with us to help lower the cost of your Flovent HFA prescription.

To find out how or for more information, contact us today by calling our toll-free number 1-866-539-5330 or send us an email at CustomerService@NorthWestPharmacy.com.

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