We all know that medications can make our lives better. But as a pharmacist, I work with patients every day who have problems with the medicines they take. Oftentimes they’ll have side effects, like an upset stomach or feeling tired. Or, the medication they’re on will not be working as it should.

Yet one of the biggest problems I see is that patients are not able to afford their medication.

For example, I worked with a young man who was struggling to breathe. He was using an inhaler that offered only temporary relief. And with it, he was not able to do the things he enjoyed, like running and exercising. This man could not afford other asthma inhalers, though, even though they were the ones that could control his condition. I was able to get a grant to pay for the medication he needed. But it’s frustrating to know that this was only a temporary fix.

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There are many patients like this young man. In Minnesota, about one out of 12 people have asthma. It’s even more common in Wisconsin, where more than one in 10 residents have the condition.

So it is great news that there is finally a generic medication for asthma that is much less expensive. The medication is a generic version of a recently approved brand name drug called AirDuo RespiClick. Both the generic and the brand name versions are made by Teva Pharmaceuticals. The company released them at the same time to make more affordable treatment available in the United States.

Both medications are similar to Advair, Symbicort, Dulera and Breo. Those typically cost between $300 and $400 per prescription. In comparison, this new generic inhaler costs between $50 and $90. And even if patients do not have to pay the full price, they may still save money. That’s because many health plans have a lower co-payment for generics.

Brand or generic?

By law, generic drugs must contain the same active ingredients as the brand name medicine. They must also work in the same way. However, in most cases the generic is much less expensive.

The new generic inhaler has the same active ingredients as Advair. But its doses and design are different. For that reason, patients who have a prescription for Advair must get a new prescription for the generic inhaler if they want to switch.

Not for everyone

AirDuo RespiClick and the generic version of it contain two chemicals. One reduces inflammation. The other opens the air passage. Both inhalers are meant for people who need a stronger medicine to manage their asthma. In addition, they are not meant for children under age 12.

HealthPartners has about 5,000 members who might be able to switch to this generic inhaler.

If you need help with your medications, whether they are for asthma or anything else, you can talk to a HealthPartners pharmacist for free.