Prescriptions

How Much Do Asthma Inhalers Cost Without Insurance in 2021?

Talor Bianchini15 Sep 2021

Inhalers are the most common treatment for asthma, a condition that makes it difficult to breathe. The average cost of a brand-name asthma inhaler without insurance is $292.91. Factors that may affect the cost of an inhaler are the type of inhaler you need and using a brand name over a generic inhaler. 

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The Cost of Different Asthma Inhalers 

We collected data from online pharmacies about 9 common medications used to treat asthma. If you don’t have insurance, you may be worried about how much it will cost you to get treatment for your asthma. The average cost for one brand-name asthma inhaler is $292.91 without insurance. Ventolin, which contains the drug salbutamol, was the cheapest at $74.32. 

Cost of Different Asthma Inhalers Without Insurance

Type of Inhaler (medication)

Cost Without Insurance of 1 Inhaler

Advair (fluticasone/salmeterol)

$471.75

Alvesco (ciclesonide)

$138.30

Asmanex Twisthaler (mometasone)

$302.13

Flovent (fluticasone)

$271.56

Pulmicort (budesonide)

$252.40

Qvar (beclometasone)

$244.51

Serevent (salmeterol)

$522.43

Symbicort (budesonide/formoterol)

$358.75

Ventolin (salbutamol)

$74.32

These costs had increased dramatically since 2008 when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) placed a ban on ozone-depleting inhalers, which eliminated the use of inhalers with chlorofluorocarbon in them. This also reduced the number of albuterol inhalers that patients could use, resulting in these generic medications being replaced with more environmentally friendly ones. Studies have shown that this led to increased out-of-pocket costs for individuals and insurance companies for asthma inhalers. 

Many plans cover the cost of inhalers in some way, but it may only be one per month. This is often done out of cost and safety concerns, fearing that some patients may abuse their medication and use it more than they should. Both Medicaid and Medicare Part D cover most inhaler costs and other asthma-related services

Additional Costs of Asthma Inhalers

The main additional cost you may face to purchasing an asthma inhaler is the doctor’s visit to obtain the prescription you need. Any general practitioner, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant can prescribe an asthma inhaler. There is only one FDA-approved over-the-counter inhaler, Primatene Mist, but it is intended for quick relief and is not a viable long-term solution to asthma. 

Luckily, one can obtain a prescription from a provider at an urgent care center or through a telehealth provider online. These two options are typically more cost-effective than a trip to a typical doctor’s office if you are without insurance. 

Cost of Common Office Visits Without Insurance

Type of Office

Average Cost Without Insurance

Urgent Care Visit 

$135-198

Telehealth Visit 

$79

Doctor’s Office Visit

$300-600

Another additional cost that some may face is subsequent treatments and medications to manage one’s asthma. Sometimes, an inhaler is not sufficient treatment. In addition to using an inhaler, your doctor may prescribe you leukotriene modifiers, theophylline, oral corticosteroids, or biologics. If allergies induce your asthma, you may also need routine allergy shots and take allergy medications every day. 

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Cost of Common Leukotriene Modifiers

Medication Name

Average Cost Without Insurance (30 tablets)

Montelukast

$70.78

Zafirlukast

$60.50

Zileuton

$882.44

Cost of Theophylline

Medication Name

Average Cost Without Insurance

Theophylline

$114.33

Cost of Common Oral Corticosteroids

Medication Name

Average Cost Without Insurance 

Methylprednisolone

$47.03

Prednisolone

$25.71

Prednisone

$9.87

The cost of allergy shots depends on how often you go and the doctor you are seeing. Allergy medications can be purchased over the counter at any drugstore. 

Factors that Influence the Cost of Asthma Inhalers 

As seen above, many things influence the cost of treating asthma. Additionally, there are specific factors that influence the cost of an asthma inhaler.  

Type of Asthma Inhaler 

Depending on the severity of asthma you are diagnosed with, you may be prescribed a more expensive medication. Easy to treat asthma conditions typically require a cheaper inhaler, while more severe conditions are treated with more expensive medications. There are 3 different types of inhalers:

  • Long-acting bronchodilator inhalers: work for up to 12 hours after a dose has been taken. Includes Serevent ($522.43), Advair ($471.75), and Symbicort ($322.30).
  • Preventer inhalers: taken every day to prevent asthma symptoms. Includes Alvesco ($138.30), Asmanex Twisthaler ($302.13), Flovent ($271.56), Pulmicort ($252.40), and Qvar ($244.51).
  • Reliever inhalers: used to ease symptoms when feeling side effects of asthma. Includes Ventolin ($74.32).

Brand Names 

Brand name drugs are almost always more expensive than generic brands. Generic drugs are produced by multiple manufacturers, which therefore decreases the cost to compete with competitors. The two are the same, containing the same ingredients, dosage information, safety, and quality. Generic drugs must meet specific standards to become FDA-approved, so they are completely safe to use as well. 

Below is a comparison of the previously listed asthma inhalers and their generic counterpart to compare the prices. 

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Average Cost of Brand Name Asthma Inhalers vs. Generic Brand

Type of Inhaler 

Cost Without Insurance of 1 Inhaler

Generic Medication

Cost Without Insurance of 1 Inhaler

Advair 

$471.75

Fluticasone/salmeterol

$319.47

Alvesco 

$138.30

None on market

N/A

Asmanex Twisthaler 

$302.13

None on market

N/A

Flovent

$271.56

None on market

N/A

Pulmicort 

$252.40

Budesonide

$227.19

Qvar 

$244.51

None on market

N/A

Serevent 

$522.43

None on market

N/A

Symbicort 

$358.75

Budesonide/formoterol

$322.30

Ventolin 

$74.32

Salbutamol

$54.34

Many common inhalers listed above are still patented, and no generic brands are currently available on the market. This was caused by the new FDA regulations in 2008 that were mentioned above. Companies were able to create new inhalers, therefore placing a new patent on their products. 

Asthma Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

To better understand asthma, we have compiled answers to common questions about this condition. 

What is asthma?

Asthma is a disease of the lungs that causes your airways to narrow and produce extra mucus, which often makes it difficult to breathe. It is a chronic disease and cannot be cured, but the everyday symptoms can be controlled. People with asthma are extra sensitive to difficult breathing triggers, like seasonal allergies, cold weather, smoke, etc. It can start at any point in life. 

Is exercise good for asthma?

Although exercise may seem like a trigger for asthma, it is actually essential for overall lung health. By exercising every day, you increase the amount of oxygen your body can use, which helps with breathing. Some people may only have exercise-induced asthma and have difficulty breathing when doing a lot of physical activity. However, these symptoms can be managed, and people with asthma can participate in all kinds of exercise. 

Does asthma worsen with age?

As you get older, there are natural changes your body goes through that may make your asthma symptoms worse. In general, lung health begins to decrease as one gets older, regardless if diagnosed with asthma or not. It’s possible that older age can bring back childhood asthma due to environmental conditions or other life changes. If you feel like your symptoms are continually worsening, speak with your doctor about what you can do to manage your condition better. 

How can I control my asthma?

Although you can never cure your asthma, there are many lifestyle changes you can make in your day-to-day life to better control your symptoms. If certain things trigger an asthma attack for yourself, try to avoid them as best as you can. As stated above, it's essential to exercise regularly as well. Pay attention to the air quality outside, which is often measured on weather apps on your smartphone. In addition, try to keep your home clean by getting rid of dust and dirt. 

Are there side effects to asthma inhalers?

There are potential side effects to using inhalers, but the benefits almost always outweigh them. Possible side effects include cough, sore throat, oral thrush, and nosebleeds. If any of your side effects become severe, talk to your doctor about potentially changing your medication. 

Bottom Line 

Asthma inhalers can become expensive if not covered by an insurance plan. On average, one brand-name asthma inhaler will cost $292.91 without insurance in 2021. This price can be affected by using a brand name instead of the generic brand and what type of inhaler you need to treat your asthma. There may be additional costs to treating your asthma when you need to see a doctor get a prescription, and if you need additional medications to manage your symptoms. 

Prescription medications are usually a high cost for people who don’t have great insurance coverage. Luckily, Mira can help you get reduced costs on your asthma inhalers. For only $45 per month, you’ll have access to up to 80% off on over 1000 different medications, as well as low-cost urgent care visits and same-day lab testing. Breathe easy; Mira has you covered. Sign up today