Manufacturer Caps Cost of Inhalers at $35

( – A major drug company has moved to make vital medication more affordable. Boehringer Ingelheim makes inhalers for people who suffer from asthma and COPD, and it’s now capping the price of them at $35 per month. That’s good news for sufferers whose insurance doesn’t cover the cost of their medication.

On March 7, German-based Boehringer Ingelheim, the world’s largest private pharma company, announced that from now on its inhalers — including Spiriva Respimat, which is used to treat asthma attacks — will cost a maximum of $35 per month. Jean-Michel Boers, who heads the company’s US branch, said in a statement that “We want to do our part to help patients… who struggle to pay for their medications” and said it would make the cost of inhalers “predictable” and “affordable.” That’s certainly true — but Boehringer Ingelheim didn’t exactly come up with the idea itself.

On January 8, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and three colleagues, including Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wrote to Boehringer Ingelheim and other major inhaler manufacturers, slamming the company for charging “unbelievable amounts” for the devices in the US. According to the letter, inhalers can cost ten times as much in the US as they do in other countries — Spiriva Respimat apparently costs $21 a month in France, $29 a month in the UK and over $500 in the US. Now the company has agreed to bring the price more in line with the rest of the world.

Boehringer Ingelheim says its new pricing policy is aimed at patients who are uninsured or under-insured, making the inhalers affordable out of pocket. The company is following in the tracks of insulin manufacturers, who slashed prices on a range of products last year — again, under political pressure.

If this trend continues it could even lead to lower health insurance premiums as the prices of some drugs come down. However, politicians need to be careful they don’t make it uneconomical for pharma companies to research new medicines, which are paid for out of profits on existing drugs.

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