Watch CBS News

A popular asthma inhaler will be discontinued in January. Here's what to know.

Warning for asthma patients regarding inhalers
Warning for asthma patients regarding inhalers 00:26

Flovent, a popular steroid inhaler used to treat and control asthma symptoms in children and adults, is being discontinued next week as its manufacturer prepares to roll out a generic version of the medication. 

Starting on Jan. 1, 2024, GlaxoSmithKline will stop manufacturing Flovent HFA and Flovent Diskus. In its place, the biopharmaceutical company will produce a generic version of the prescription inhaler featuring an identical formula and drug-delivery mechanism, GSK said in a statement last fall posted by the Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). 

While GSK says Flovent's generic makeover will "provide patients in the U.S. with potentially lower cost alternatives of ... medically important products," some medical professionals aren't convinced. According to some experts, the switch-up could negatively impact patients' pocketbooks and their health. 

Here's what you need to know about Flovent's phaseout.

What is Flovent?

Flovent is a brand name of fluticasone, an inhaled prescription corticosteroid medication used for by patients 4 years and older for the long-term treatment of asthma, according to the brand's website. The widely popular drug has been on the market since 2000, its website shows. 

Why is Flovent being replaced with a generic product? 

The timing of Flovent's generic makeover falls in line with the elimination of the Medicaid rebate cap removal of Medicaid drug prices, a provision made as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Under the new law, GSK starting next year would have been required to pay states higher Medicaid rebates tied to the drug's price increases. The average price of  Flovent, increased 41% between 2013 and 2018, from $207 to $292, according to GoodRx, and has increased 47% since 2014.

GSK did not immediately reply to CBS MoneyWatch's request for comment. 

Why are medical professionals concerned? 

The American Academy of Pediatrics warned that the discontinuation of Flovent could leave patients who rely on the popular asthma treatment to deal with higher co-pays and delayed access as a result of authorization requirements, the group said in a statement earlier this month.  

In addition, the discontinuation taps into concerns by pediatricians of future alterations on the drug's delivery mechanism as some insurers only cover breath-actuated inhalers, which experts say aren't appropriate for treating children with certain asthma conditions, according to the AAP.

What Flovent alternatives are available?

While alternatives exist, physicians recommend that families who need Flovent refill their prescription before the end of the year to give themselves time to figure out which options are best for them.

Parents and patients taking Flovent should speak to their physicians about possible alternatives right away, Christopher M. Oermann, M.D., a member of the AAP, said in the statement. He also recommends they call their insurers about coverage for alternatives.

"It's best to think about it now," Dr. Oermann said, "not wait until it actually happens and then scramble to figure it out."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.