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What to Do If Your Albuterol Inhaler Is Backordered

by The GoodRx Pharmacist on February 25, 2016 at 4:02 pm

In December 2015, Ventolin HFA (albuterol) inhalers were recalled. The reason for the recall: there were a small number of canisters that did not have enough propellant—meaning the inhalers wouldn’t deliver the full 200 puffs the labeling promises.

See this announcement from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) regarding the Ventolin HFA shortage.

Which manufacturer and strengths are affected?

The shortage is affecting GlaxoSmithKline’s Ventolin HFA, in both sizes (8 gram and 18 gram) of the metered dose inhaler.

You may have other options if you can’t get Ventolin HFA:

There are actually three different brand-name albuterol inhalers available in the US. Unfortunately, no generic alternatives are currently approved.

Be aware though—if you have insurance, your plan may only cover one of these options. If Ventolin HFA your only covered albuterol inhaler, your pharmacist or your doctor may be able to help you appeal for an override. Contact your individual plan for more information.

Are any of the other albuterol inhalers unaffected by the shortage?

  • Yes. These manufacturers are not having production problems and are still supplying their albuterol inhalers.
  • Merck has Proventil HFA available.
  • Teva has ProAir RespiClick available. However, Teva’s other inhaler, ProAir HFA, is being rationed and only distributed in small quantities. Teva is trying to prevent a shortage, so pharmacies can still place orders at the moment, just not for a large amount at one time.

What’s the reason for the backorder?

GlaxoSmithKline couldn’t provide a reason for the shortage. However, the recent recall is more than likely the cause.

When will Ventolin HFA be available again?

According to GlaxoSmithKline, the 8 gram inhaler will be available again late this month (February 2016), however, they do not have an estimated release date on the larger 18 gram inhalers at this time.

What can you (and your pharmacist) do about the Ventolin HFA backorder?

You and your pharmacist have a few options, depending on your doctor, your insurance, and the availability of Ventolin HFA:

  • If your insurance will only cover a specific brand of albuterol sulfate (Ventolin HFA), they typically will not pay for ProAir or Proventil. However, due to the shortage, your pharmacy can call your insurance company for an override.
    It may take a little longer to process your prescription, but the whole process can actually be handled by your pharmacy. One thing to keep in mind though: some insurance companies will only override prescription claims between the hours of 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, so there’s a chance you may not be able to get the override until the next day.
  • If your pharmacy doesn’t have Ventolin HFA in stock, but there is another pharmacy nearby that does have it,  your pharmacist can transfer your prescription for you. Transferring a prescription will also take a little longer, so plan ahead if you have any time constraints.
  • If you have coverage for more than one brand, or if you’re paying cash (or using a GoodRx discount), your pharmacist can fill your prescription with one of the other available brands. However, your pharmacist may need to call your doctor to authorize the change.
  • You can contact your doctor’s office directly, and your doctor can call in a prescription for a different medication—either another albuterol inhaler, or another similar medication like Xopenex HFA. For more information on Xopenex HFA check out the manufacturer website here.

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