Following Boehringer's lead, AstraZeneca ⁠caps monthly out-of-pocket inhaler costs at $35 in the US

Following Boehringer's lead, AstraZeneca ⁠caps monthly out-of-pocket inhaler costs at $35 in the US
Source: FiercePharma
Earlier this month, Boehringer Ingelheim capped out-of-pocket costs for its own inhaler portfolio in the U.S.—again at just $35 per month.
At a critical moment for the U.S. inhaler market, AstraZeneca is following its peer Boehringer Ingelheim and taking a step to boost patient access.
AstraZeneca on Monday revealed it’s expanding a savings program across its entire U.S. respiratory portfolio. The plan is to cap monthly out-of-pocket inhaler costs for eligible patients at $35.
The move will kick in on June 1 and includes inhaled medicines for both asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the company said.
“We remain dedicated to addressing the need for affordability of our medicines, but the system is complex and we cannot do it alone,” AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said in a statement. “It is critical that Congress bring together key stakeholders to help reform the healthcare system so patients can afford the medicines they need, not just today, but for the future.”
Soriot’s call to action resembles that of Boehringer Ingelheim U.S. pharma president Jean-Michel Boers, who made similar remarks when his company earlier this month capped out-of-pocket costs for its own inhaler portfolio—again at just $35 per month.
"AstraZeneca and others across the US healthcare system have raised concerns over tactics that pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and other industry intermediaries use, which ultimately raise costs of healthcare for people," an AZ spokesperson explained over email, elaborating on Soriot's comments.
PBMs "often request high percentages" of list prices, but the so-called "rebates" don't "translate to savings for patients at the pharmacy counter," AZ's spokesperson added.
The pharma industry has long pushed more regulation of pharmacy benefit managers. At a Senate hearing last month, three Big Pharma CEOs laid pricing blame on pharmaceutical middlemen, which negotiate drug pricing and access. Industry trade group PhRMA has been pressing for more scrutiny of PBMs for years.
At the same time, AZ and Boehringer Ingelheim's recent pricing moves weren’t entirely unprompted. Back in January, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, sent letters to CEOs of U.S. respiratory juggernauts AZ, Boehringer, GSK and Teva seeking to investigate the “outrageous” prices of their inhaler products.
Meanwhile, GSK recently decided to shelve its brand-name asthma inhaler Flovent HFA in favor of an authorized generic—a move Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, has branded as a “shameful money grab.” In recent weeks, media headlines have repeatedly flagged access issues for asthma patients raised by the Flovent switch.
For its part, GSK told Fierce Pharma that it elected to launch authorized generics for Flovent HFA and its sister product Flovent Diskus to help maintain patient access to the drug, potentially at a lower cost, after plans had been made to discontinue the branded products.
GSK said it sells the authorized generic product to its partner Prasco, which “alone” determines the market price for that version of the drug.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional commentary from AstraZeneca.
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