Generic of Proair Asthma Inhaler Postponed, Again — Here’s How to Save Anyway

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Tori Marsh
Tori Marsh, MPH, is on the Research Team at GoodRx, and is the resident expert on drug pricing and savings.
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Proair is a common rescue inhaler used to treat asthma attacks, but it’s not cheap. Cash prices for one asthma inhaler average around $85. What’s more, since 2016, cash prices for Proair have increased by almost 70% — from $52 per inhaler to over $80 — and there’s still no generic available.

Even though it is expensive, Proair generally works well. Around 73% if people rate that Proair is worth it according to our friends at Iodine, and there are few side effects. If Proair works well for you, or your doctor thinks its best, how can you make it more affordable? Here’s some information about Proair and how you can save.

How popular is Proair?

Proair is the second most popular short-acting beta-agonist, a class of drugs used for the quick relief of asthma and COPD symptoms. Proair is considered a rescue inhaler, which means that it is used to relax muscles in the lungs and maintain open airways during an asthma attack.

When will a generic version of Proair be available?

Drug manufacturer Perrigo planned to launch a generic version of Proair in late 2018. Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just denied Perrigo’s application for approval in May.

This is the third time that Perrigo has been denied approval for their generic version of Proair. At present, neither Perrigo nor the FDA has disclosed why the generic Proair application was denied, but Perrigo plans to address the FDA’s concerns and re-apply.

Developing generic asthma inhalers is notoriously difficult, mainly because the chemical components of inhalers like Proair are so complex and need to be properly tweaked to fit a new inhalation device. Because of that, a generic for Proair is difficult to manufacture.

Proair works best for me. How can I save?

Are there any cheaper alternatives?

If you’re open to trying other asthma inhalers in place of Proair, you have a couple options. While some alternatives are cheaper generics, some are expensive brand-name medications that could be just as expensive as Proair. These inhalers might be covered by your insurance depending on your plan, so it’s best to speak with your provider.

Short-acting albuterol inhalers like Proair include albuterol (Accuneb), Proventil, and Ventolin. Both Proventil and Ventolin are brand-only inhalers, which means that they don’t have generic versions and are pretty expensive — a 30-day supply for either of these can cost well over $70. Fortunately, albuterol (the generic of Accuneb) is available for as little as $10 for a 30-day supply with a GoodRx coupon.

Another rescue inhaler you may want to consider is Xopenex (levalbuterol). While Xopenex and Proair are both fast-acting beta-agonists, they differ in their active ingredient — Proair contains albuterol, while Xopenex contains levalbuterol. The big difference between the two is their side effects. Levalbuterol is generally well-tolerated in patients while albuterol has been known to cause an increased heart rate and isn’t prescribed to patients with a history of heart problems. Xopenex is available as generic levalbuterol, which can cost as little as $30 for the 30-day supply with a GoodRx coupon.

If you are interested in any of these alternative medications, speak with your doctor to discuss the best option for your health and your wallet.

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