Popularity of Brand-Name Asthma Inhalers Plunges With Approval of Generics: GoodRx Monthly Report

Tori Marsh, MPH
Written by Tori Marsh, MPH
Published on March 9, 2019

This past month, three new generic inhalers hit the market, and according to the GoodRx Index, patients are rapidly switching over to more affordable generics.

The GoodRx Index also featured the following trends in the month of February:

  • Flu season is raging on, and fills are elevated for Tamiflu and other antibiotics.

  • Actimmune is still the most expensive drug in America, but there have been some changes to the top 20 most expensive drug list.

3 different inhalers on a baby blue background.
Evgeniya Pavlova/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Brand-name asthma inhalers went generic

Late this January, three popular brand-name inhalers went generic: Advair Diskus, Proair HFA, and Ventolin HFA. The new generic inhalers became available to the public in February, and according to the GoodRx Index, patients are quickly switching over to the more affordable generic alternatives.

Advair Diskus

Advair Diskus’ generic, fluticasone/salmeterol, is now available in pharmacies for around $150 per inhaler with a GoodRx coupon, which is about 50% cheaper than the brand inhaler. After its approval on January 30, fills for brand-name Advair plummeted as patients started to fill for the generic.

As of the last week of February, 0.10% of all prescriptions nationwide were for Advair, while 0.7% were for the generic. While fills for the generic have not yet surpassed fills for the brand, at this rate, it’s likely that fluticasone/salmeterol will account for the majority of fills by the end of March.

Ventolin HFA

A similar trend can also be seen for Ventolin HFA. As of the last week of February, 0.43% of all prescription fills nationwide were for brand-name Ventolin, while 0.67% were for its generic, albuterol.

Albuterol, the generic version of Ventolin, is available in pharmacies for as little as $30 per inhaler. This is about 50% cheaper than brand-name Ventolin, which has an average cash price of around $74 per inhaler.

Proair HFA

Just like Ventolin, Proair is an albuterol inhaler—and the generic is available for around $30 with a GoodRx discount.

During the last week of February, fill rates for Proair and albuterol were nearly identical—0.36% of all nationwide claims were for Proair compared to 0.33% for albuterol.

Are you taking any of these inhalers? If so, you might notice that your doctor or pharmacist has switched you over to the generic alternative. If you’re paying out of pocket, that’s good news for your wallet!

Cold and flu season is heating up

Flu season started late this year, and Americans are still feeling the effects. Not only are we seeing an increase in claims for the popular flu medication, Tamiflu, but fills for antibiotics are also on the rise. Specifically, fills for cefdinir and amoxicillin, antibiotics used for bacterial infections, are up 17% and 16% since January, respectively.

While this year’s flu season began with influenza A(H1N1) being the dominant flu strain, a more severe strain of the flu, influenza A(H3N2), is now accounting for more than half of all flu cases, and experts believe this to be the cause for our prolonged season. We aren’t out of the woods yet, so remember that it’s still not too late to get your flu shot.

The most popular drugs in February

Every month, GoodRx tracks the most popular outpatient drugs prescribed in the U.S., comparing total prescriptions written and filled for all forms of the medications. This analysis is based on a representative sample of prescriptions filled at U.S. pharmacies across the 50 states. The result is a top 10 list of the most prescribed drugs in the United States.

  1. Atorvastatin

  2. Lisinopril

  3. Levothyroxine

  4. Amlodipine

  5. Ibuprofen

  6. Amoxicillin

  7. Hydrocodone/acetaminophen

  8. Omeprazole

  9. Prednisone

  10. Losartan

The most expensive drugs in February

These were the 20 most expensive outpatient drugs in February based on list prices (the price set by the manufacturer) for a typical one-month prescription.

  1. Actimmune – $52,322

  2. Myalept – $46,328

  3. Daraprim – $45,000

  4. Cinryze – $44,141

  5. Takhzyro – $44,140

  6. Chenodal – $42,570

  7. Juxtapid – $40,671

  8. H.P. Acthar – $38,892

  9. Tegsedi – $34,600

  10. Ravicti – $33,572

  11. Vitrakvi – $32,800

  12. Firazyr – $32,468

  13. Cuprimine – $31,426

  14. Sovaldi – $28,000

  15. Viekira Pak – $27,773

  16. Viekira XR – $27,773

  17. Orfadin – $27,247

  18. Tibsovo – $26,115

  19. Cerdelga – $26,000

  20. Remodulin – $25,466

Since November, when we released our previous Top 20 list, things have changed, and not for the better.

Here’s what’s different:

  • On January 1, 2019 manufacturer Aegerion Pharmaceuticals increased the price of Myalept and Juxtapid by 9.95%, moving the drugs to number 2 and 7 on the list, respectively.

  • Horizon Pharma increased the price of Ravicti by 4.9% to a list price of $33,572, and it is now the 10th most expensive drug in the US.

  • United Therapeutics Corporation increased the price for Tyvaso by 4.9% on January 1, 2019. A monthly supply now costs $29,886, making Tyvaso the 14th most expensive drug in the U.S.

  • Harvoni and Zavesca’s generics both hit pharmacies, and now patients can access these drugs at a lower price.

  • Manufacturer Sanofi Genzyme increased the price of Cerdelga by 5% on January 15, 2019, bringing it to number 19 on this list.

  • Vitrakvi was approved on November 26, 2019, and at $546.67 per capsule, is now the 11th most expensive drug.

Other news from February

  • A new analysis from the GoodRx research team revealed that compared to where we were in 2017, more Americans are now uninsured, and those who are insured say their health costs are now higher.

  • GoodRx research showed just how much income affects health. Read our report here, and related coverage on the New York Times here.

  • Generics for hepatitis C drugs Harvoni and Epclusa hit pharmacies.

  • The FDA released a new warning about supplements falsely claiming to prevent and cure Alzheimer’s.

– – –

This data reflects overall U.S. prescriptions (not fills using GoodRx) and comes from several sources, including pharmacies and insurers, providing a representative sample of nationwide claims.

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