Pharmaceutical Firm Boehringer Ingelheim Caps Out-of-Pocket Inhaler Costs at $35 a Month

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Pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim will cap patients’ out-of-pocket costs at $35 per month for all of its inhaler products and devices, officials announced on March 7.

The cap will begin on June 1 and will apply to eligible patients, the German drugmaker said in a statement.

Officials said the move will “dramatically decrease costs” at retail pharmacies for the most vulnerable patients, including those who are uninsured or underinsured.

The cap on out-of-pocket costs “reinforces the company’s long-standing commitment to ensure access to important medicines for patients,” Boehringer Ingelheim said.

“Patients have counted on Boehringer Ingelheim for nearly 140 years to tackle challenges across diseases, including respiratory illnesses,” said Jean-Michel Boers, President and CEO, Boehringer Ingelheim USA Corporation. “The U.S. healthcare system is complex and often doesn’t work for patients, especially the most vulnerable.”

“While we can’t fix the entire system alone, we are bringing forward a solution to make it fairer. We want to do our part to help patients living with COPD or asthma who struggle to pay for their medications. This new program supports patients with predictable, affordable costs at the pharmacy counter. We will also continue to advocate for substantive policy reforms to improve the healthcare system,” Mr. Boers added.

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The cost cuts will apply to Boehringer Ingelheim’s full range of inhaler products including Atrovent, Combivent Respimat and Spiriva HandiHaler, which is used to treat respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an obstructive lung disease that commonly affects smokers.

Boehringer also noted it will decrease the list price on some of its inhaler products, although officials did not state when this would happen or which items it would apply to.

Millions Living With Chronic Lung Diseases

The company also vowed to “continue providing significant discounts and rebates off the list price of its medicines to insurers, pharmacy benefits managers and other parties,” but noted that “unfortunately, these reductions are not always passed on to patients.”

According to the American Lung Association, more than 34 million people living in the United States have chronic lung diseases such as asthma and COPD, and lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.
The announcement from Boehringer comes after the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee began probing the company in January over what senators said were “outrageous” inhaler prices.

The committee, chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), also began investigating prices on inhalers from AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and Teva at the same time; noting that the companies charged between $200 and $600 each for inhaler products that are typically purchased on a monthly basis.

Responding to Boehringer’s cost-cutting efforts for patients, Mr. Sanders said they were “very positive steps in the right direction” and called on the other three pharmaceutical companies to take similar action.

“If Boehringer Ingelheim can take action to cap the cost of inhalers at $35 in the U.S. and lower the list price of some of the inhalers it manufactures, these other companies can do the same.” Mr. Sanders said in a statement.

“The Senate HELP Committee will continue to do everything we can do to make sure that Americans no longer pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs,” the Vermont lawmaker added.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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