The Combivent Switch-a-Roo

Roni Shye
Roni Shye, PharmD BCGP BCACP, is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
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Starting July 2013, the current Combivent inhalation aerosol will no longer be available. Don’t worry though, as an alternative inhaler is already in pharmacies: Combivent Respimat!

What is Combivent?
Combivent (ipratropium and albuterol) is a combination medication inhaler used in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The two medications open the airways in your lungs to help you breathe better. The medications are the same in the current Combivent Inhalation Aerosol and the new Combivent Respimat inhaler.

What’s the reason for yet another inhaler discontinuation?

The FDA has requested the discontinuation of all inhalers that use inhalation aerosol due to the chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) content. CFCs are used as propellants in aerosols to spray the medicine out of the inhaler. However, CFCs are known to decrease the ozone layer, and therefore the United States and other countries have agreed to discontinue using such items over an agreed time frame.

When will the Combivent Inhalation aerosol be no longer available?

The FDA mandated that the current inhalation aerosol inhalers no longer be sold or made after December 31st, 2013. The manufacturer of Combivent has stated that their inhalation aerosol version will be discontinued by next month, July 2013.

So, how is the Combivent Respimat different . . . ?

The Combivent Respimat contains the same medication as the previous inhalation aerosol. The newly designed inhaler does not contain CFCs, and is a suitable alternative to the Combivent inhalation aerosol. The Combivent Respimat does work a little differently from the old inhaler, so ask your pharmacist to go over it with you or read over the directions carefully.

What should you do if you are currently using Combivent?

If you currently have the Combivent inhalation aerosol, it is still safe to use as long as the product is not expired. After July 2013 though, you will have to switch to the Combivent Respimat. Most pharmacies are already not able to stock the inhalation aerosol anymore, as the manufacturer has already started phasing the product out. However, since the Combivent Respimat is considered an alternative to the older version of Combivent, you will need a new prescription. Ask your pharmacist to request a change in the prescription or speak to your healthcare provider for a new prescription.

Till next week, breathe easy.

The GoodRx Pharmacist

Combivent and Combivent Respimat should be priced about the same, around $250 per inhaler, though Combivent Respimat is slightly more expensive at the moment. Insurance plans should also treat the two inhalers the same; both are considered Tier 2 prescriptions by many plans, meaning you’ll pay a moderate copay.

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