How much does it cost you to breathe? For asthmatics, the price will be going way up because of a 2005 federal mandate and a treaty to protect the ozone layer.
CBS “The Early Show” reporter Maggie Rodriguez discussed the “green” inhalers that must replace traditional inhalers by the end of 2008. In that June 6 segment, CBS’s Dr. Emily Senay downplayed the expense of the newer inhalers saying, “Unfortunately, they’re going to be a little more expensive.”
According to The New York Times, the actual cost of “green” inhalers could be approximately three times more expensive. “[T]he old inhalers cost much less – an average of $13.50, or one-third the price” of the newer inhalers, said the Times on May 13. Other critics warn that there is actually a shortage of new inhalers available.
On CBS, Senay told viewers that the old inhalers are being phased out because they contained Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which “damage the environment.” According to the Food and Drug Administration, companies have to switch to inhalers that use hydrofluoroalkane (HFA) because of the Montreal Protocol international environmental treaty.
Dr. Gilbert Ross, the Executive and Medical Director of the American Council on Science and Health, told the Business & Media Institute how these costs could have severe effects on asthmatics who may not be able to afford the new inhalers.
“We’ve all heard of people skipping their medications because they can’t afford them. When prices go up, people with limited financial reserves will suffer the consequences to try and save money, even if that means [cutting out] life-saving medications,” Ross told BMI.
He also added that asthma is more common in urban areas where there is an increased amount of pollution. It is in these inner cities where uninsured low socio-economic groups are concentrated. These people will harshly feel the effect of higher costs, said Ross.
“This significant increase in cost for a commonly prescribed asthma medication is likely to lead to significant hardship for those asthmatic patients who pay for medications out of pocket. There is concern that patients who must pay for their medications will turn to less expensive and less safe over-the-counter alternatives,” said Dr. Emily A. DiMango in an upcoming article for the American Council on Science and Health.
In addition to downplaying the negative affect of higher costs, CBS also ignored the current shortage of HFA inhalers. According to Ross manufacturers have not switched to the new inhalers fast enough and there is now a temporary shortage.