Millions of asthma patients at risk of deadly attacks as drug firm PULLS Flovent – most commonly used inhaler

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • GSK said it will replace Flovent with a generic version that is hard to get hold of
  • Doctors say the switch could put asthmatics at risk during the winter flu season
  • READ MORE:  Sex can trigger asthma attacks and flare-ups, doctors find

Millions of Americans could soon be forced to live without life-saving medication after a pharmaceutical giant announced it would pull its drug from store shelves.

Flovent, the most commonly prescribed inhaler for people with asthma, will no longer be available in pharmacies beginning January 1. 

The drug’s manufacturer, GSK, announced it was discontinuing its branded inhaler and making an ‘authorized generic’ version.

The generic medication will be an identical version to the branded Flovent, which is taken daily to help prevent asthmatic symptoms, GSK said.

Around 27 million Americans suffer from asthma – and the majority rely on Flovent to prevent attacks that could leave them hospitalized

The drug’s manufacturer, GSK, announced it was discontinuing its branded inhaler and making an ‘authorized generic’ version.

The drug’s manufacturer, GSK, announced it was discontinuing its branded inhaler and making an ‘authorized generic’ version.

However, doctors have warned that patients may struggle to access the alternative because insurers are not required to cover generic versions of some medications. 

It means some sufferers may have to wait for an entirely new prescription.

Healthcare experts have also criticized the timing of the drugmaker’s change in policy: the switch comes just as respiratory viruses, which can be lethal to asthma patients, are on the rise across the country.

Dr. Robyn Cohen, director of the Pediatric Pulmonary and Allergy Clinic at Boston Medical Center, told CNN Flovent has been the most commonly used inhaler for nearly three decades.

Flovent is the most commonly prescribed inhaler - but as of Jan 1, patients won't be able to access it

Flovent is the most commonly prescribed inhaler – but as of Jan 1, patients won’t be able to access it

She said: ‘It’s the one that, overwhelmingly, pediatricians reach for when they decide that their patient needs a daily preventive medication…

‘The fact that it’s being discontinued is going to be a huge shock to the system for patients, for families and for doctors.’

Additionally, patients who have taken the drug for years may find themselves unable to fill prescriptions – due to insurers’ reluctance to cover the new type of drug.

This could leave them vulnerable during a dangerous tripledemic of flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and Covid that is hitting America.

Flovent is meant to be taken daily as a preventative for people with asthma. It helps stop swelling of the airways, making it easier for sufferers to breathe, and reduces the body’s response to triggers that may make breathing hard.

Among these triggers are colds and flus — making the medication more crucial now than ever.

WHAT IS ASTHMA?

Asthma is a common but incurable condition which affects the small tubes inside the lungs.

It can cause them to become inflamed, or swollen, which restricts the airways and makes it harder to breathe.

The condition affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood. Symptoms may improve or even go away as children grow older, but can return in adulthood.

Symptoms include wheezing, breathlessness, a tight chest and coughing, and these may get worse during an asthma attack.

Treatment usually involves medication which is inhaled to calm down the lungs.

Triggers for the condition include allergies, dust, air pollution, exercise and infections such as cold or flu.

If you think you or your child has asthma you should visit a doctor, because it can develop into more serious complications like fatigue or lung infections.

Source: NHS  

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Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report there have been nearly 10 million flu cases, 110,000 hospitalizations due to the flu and as many as 9,500 influenza deaths so far during the 2023-2024 season.

There has been a 13 percent rise in positive flu tests and hospitalizations for the flu are on the rise, with 9,900 people admitted to hospitals this week.

For all respiratory illnesses, rates are up five percent.

Doctors’ visits for respiratory illness are on the rise among all age groups, but are highest in children under four years old.

Emergency department visits for Covid are up nearly seven percent in the most recent week and admissions have increased more than 10 percent. Deaths from Covid are up three percent.

Nearly 27million Americans suffer from asthma and it is the leading cause of chronic disease in children.

Asthma is a long-term disease that causes inflammation and swelling of the airways, leading to a narrowing of the passage that carries air from the nose and mouth to the lungs.

Symptoms include trouble breathing and shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and pain in the chest.

There is no cure for the disease, but daily medication to manage symptoms, as well as certain lifestyle changes, can help avoid potentially life-threatening complications.

While most asthma patients can live their day-to-day lives as normal, some sufferers with severe forms of the disease are at risk of deadly flare-ups, or asthma attacks.

During an asthma attack, the lining of the airways becomes severely inflamed, mucus clogs the airways and muscles tighten around the airways, making it difficult and stressful to breathe.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show in 2021, the latest data available, 9.8million people experienced an asthma attack, including 1.8million kids and 8million adults.

And, every day in the US, 5,000 people visit the emergency room due to asthma and 11 people die.

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