With popular asthma inhaler now discontinued, what other options do patients have?

As GSK stops making Flovent, experts reveal whether generic replacements will fill the gap

Flovent, a popular corticosteroid inhaler used to treat asthma, is no longer available.

The global manufacturer, Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK), announced in May that the medications — Flovent HFA, a metered-dose inhaler, as well as Flovent Diskus, a dry powder inhaler — would be discontinued as of Dec. 31, 2023.

It is expected that the existing supply of Flovent products will be exhausted by early 2024, the company said in the statement, which was also provided to Fox News Digital on Tuesday.

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In an effort to meet patients’ needs, GSK has launched generic versions of both products.

"As part of our commitment to be ambitious for patients, we launched an authorized generic for Flovent HFA (fluticasone propionate inhalation aerosol) in May 2022 and intend to launch an authorized generic for Flovent Diskus (fluticasone propionate inhalation powder) in October 2023" as "potentially lower cost alternatives," the company said in a statement sent to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) in November 2023.

Flovent

Flovent, a popular corticosteroid inhaler used to treat asthma, is no longer available as of Dec. 31, 2023. The company said it expects "minimal disruption for patients" as they transition to authorized generics.  (Getty Images / Getty Images)

The company said it expects "minimal disruption for patients" in the transition from the branded medications to the authorized generics.

The generics will be manufactured by GSK and distributed by Prasco LLC.

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Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist with Allergy & Asthma Network in New York, expects there to be at least some amount of disruption.

"I think it will disrupt treatment for some patients while they scramble to find an alternative covered by their insurance," she told Fox News Digital, sharing her opinion.

GSK building

The manufacturer, Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK), announced in May that the medications — Flovent HFA, a metered-dose inhaler, as well as Flovent Diskus, a dry powder inhaler — would be discontinued. (iStock / iStock)

Melanie Carver, chief mission officer of AAFA, noted that the U.S. has a "complicated drug pricing ecosystem."

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
GSK GSK PLC ADR 40.88 -0.37 -0.90%

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"Manufacturers, pharmacy benefit managers, insurance companies and federal policies can create situations that reduce access to critical medications for patients," Carver told Fox News Digital.

What to know about generic medications

In addition to GSK’s generic offerings, there is also a generic metered dose inhaler made by RPK Pharmaceuticals that has the same dosing, said Parikh.

"The efficacy will be the same [for] all of these," she said. 

For people who are currently taking Flovent, Parikh recommends speaking with a doctor about switching.

Woman using inhaler

For those individuals who are currently taking Flovent, an allergist and immunologist recommends speaking with a doctor about switching. (iStock / iStock)

"The generics aren’t as widely covered or they may require prior authorization, so [some patients] may have to change to a different brand altogether," she added.

Access to the authorized generic fluticasone will depend on people's health insurance and their pharmacy benefits, Carver pointed out.

"While we hope that most plans will replace the brand name Flovent with the authorized generic, there may be some that don’t, and that will create challenges for patients to get the medicine they need," she told Fox News Digital.

"For some people, the out-of-pocket costs may unexpectedly be higher with the generic if their plan doesn’t have the authorized generics on their preferred drug lists."

For those who are currently using brand name Flovent HFA or Flovent Diskus, Carver recommends checking with insurance providers to see if the authorized generic versions are covered. 

"For some people, the out-of-pocket costs may unexpectedly be higher with the generic if their plan doesn’t have the authorized generics on their preferred drug lists," she warned.

Doctor explaining inhaler

Patients should check with their doctor to determine the appropriate dosage and the proper way to use the inhalers, an expert advised. (iStock / iStock)

It’s important that people who have asthma continue to take their medications, Carver said — particularly during the winter season, when respiratory illnesses typically spike.

"Fluticasone works by controlling inflammation and swelling in the airways to prevent asthma attacks," she said. 

"Pharmacy delays can put a person with asthma at risk of worsening inflammation."

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For patients whose insurance plans will not cover the authorized generic medication, there are other inhaler options, including ArmonAir Digihaler and Arnuity Ellipta. 

"ArmonAir Digihaler is an alternative for Flovent Diskus. The formulation is the same but slightly different doses are available," said Carver.

Man with inhaler

It’s important that people who have asthma continue to take their medications, an allergy and asthma expert said — particularly during the winter season, when respiratory illnesses typically spike. (iStock / iStock)

"Arnuity Ellipta is an inhaled steroid but not a direct substitute for Flovent HFA or Flovent Diskus."

Patients should check with their doctor to determine the appropriate dosage and the proper way to use the inhalers, Carver said.

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"Not all inhalers are used the same way," she said. 

"Some insurers are transitioning to breath-actuated inhalers (like the Diskus versions) on their preferred drug lists, but these are not appropriate for all patients."

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When people are not trained on how to use their inhalers, this can lead to uncontrolled asthma and emergency room visits, Carver warned.

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