Flovent Discontinuation in 2024 Raises Concerns for Doctors, Patients

Flovent is being discontinued in the new year; insurance coverage of alternatives is uncertain
Flovent Discontinuation in 2024 Raises Concerns for Doctors, Patients
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FRIDAY, Dec. 29, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- In a move that is causing concern among doctors and patients, GlaxoSmithKline is discontinuing Flovent (fluticasone inhalation) as of Jan. 1, 2024.

The pharmaceutical company will make "an authorized generic" version of the drug, but without the same branding. While doctors say it will work just as well, it does not appear to be as widely covered by insurance, according to CNN. As a result, patients may be forced to get new prescriptions and iron out insurance coverage at the peak of respiratory virus season.

"This medication has been the most commonly used inhaled medication for the past 25 or 30 years," Robyn Cohen, M.D., director of the Pediatric Pulmonary and Allergy Clinic at Boston Medical Center, told CNN. "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."

A GSK spokeswoman told CNN the company is making the change "as part of our commitment to be ambitious for patients." She noted the company introduced the authorized generics of Flovent HFA, an inhalation aerosol, and Flovent Diskus, an inhalation powder, in 2022 and 2023 and said it would discontinue the branded versions in the United States on Jan. 1, 2024.

The generics are potentially lower-cost alternatives, the spokeswoman said. But experts on the pharmaceutical industry told CNN that GSK is making the switch at a time when Medicaid rebate changes could saddle the company with large penalties because of previous price hikes on Flovent.

The change going into effect on Jan. 1 removes a cap on Medicaid rebates that pharmaceutical companies must pay if they hike prices more than inflation. Until now, rebates were capped, so manufacturers would never repay Medicaid more than the cost of a drug. Removing that cap means drug makers that have had large price hikes over time could end up selling their medication at a loss.

Since 2014, the price of branded Flovent has risen about 47 percent, according to GoodRx. No other generic versions of the drug are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. CNN reported that GSK did price the authorized generic lower than the branded Flovent.

CVS Caremark, a major pharmacy benefit manager, is giving preferential placement to another branded inhaler, Pulmicort, instead of generic Flovent. Based on net prices, "in this case, the authorized generics were more expensive than the brand name medications," a CVS spokesman told CNN.

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