Discontinued asthma drug stirs frustrations

After GSK discontinued its brand-name asthma drug Flovent on Jan. 1, families and physicians are struggling to access its generic solution, CNN reported Feb. 13. 

The drugmaker is still selling the generic, fluticasone, but patients are scrambling to access it because some payers cover only the branded version. Alternative therapies are also hard to come by, and some of the alternatives covered on formularies are not appropriate for young children. 

Dry powder inhalers or breath-actuated pumps require deep breaths and breath to be held for 10 seconds, a difficult task for young children. Nebulizers, another alternative, require 10 to 15 minutes twice a day for a child to sit still, pediatricians told CNN

The switch from brand name to generic comes at a time of high rates of respiratory illnesses and a change in CMS rebates, which would have caused GSK to pay penalties for increasing  Flovent's price higher than inflation rates.

A GSK spokesperson told the news outlet the decision to discontinue Flovent was "to ensure patients continue to have access to these important medicines, potentially at a lower cost, knowing that we had been planning to discontinue the branded products for some time."

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