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geeky_mama's avatar

Folks with Asthma: Ever been denied a rescue inhaler?

Asked by geeky_mama (8930points) February 20th, 2012

I have asthma. It’s not so severe that I need a rescue inhaler (e.g. Albuterol or Xoponex) on a daily basis – and until recently I’d had a long stretch where I haven’t had any attacks so I hadn’t gotten around to getting a new inhaler.
Then quite suddenly the past couple of days I started having acute (moderately severe) attacks so I called my pharmacy to pick up an inhaler.
They said I lacked “refills” on my Rx and that they’d contact my Asthma doctor on my behalf. What I expected would take a few hours was actually going to take 3 days due to their “policy” at the pharmacy. I found that unacceptable. (And called my doctor and had a new inhaler in hand from a different pharmacy in less than 10 minutes. nice to breathe again.)

I can remember many times in the past where other pharmacies just gave me the rescue inhaler (to make sure I was able to breathe) and THEN called my doctor to sort out the refill. That sure makes more sense to me.. no sense in having me fall over dead in your store unable to breathe while you debate whether I can have a refill or not, eh?

Do those of you who have asthma have any similar experiences? I’ve always experienced (in the past) that pharmacists, EMTs and ER docs would rather get you the medicine to open your airways first, worry about details like refills later.

After this nonsense literally left me gasping for 2 days I found this news story and wondered.. Has this happened to others before?

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7 Answers

Aethelflaed's avatar

No, I’ve never had that happen. I would talk to their manager, and let your doctor know to avoid them. WTF?

Pandora's avatar

My immediate thought of what happened in that story is how horrible it was that customers nearby didn’t offer up two bucks. I would’ve. As for your story, I don’t find it hard to believe that between pharmacies, insurance companies and doctors wanting to be able to charge for a visit that they would do that. It happened to my daughter. She was only given a prescription for 3 inhalers. She had lost her last one and her allergies was acting up one night. When we called the pharmacy they said we needed to get the doctor to call it in. When she called they said she needed to come in and be re-evaluated before they can write her another prescription because they were not allowed by law to give her another inhaler so soon. Really I found out it had to do with her not having insurance. Insurance companies regulate how many inhalers go out but when a patient doesn’t have insurance they can see any number of different doctors and get the same prescription at different places. So its to keep them from selling it. My daughter didn’t want us to pay another 140 dollars to see a doctor just to get a prescription. I called them and spoke to the head nurse and explained that she didn’t have the money to pay another 140 for the visit and then another 40 for the inhaler and she needed it bad. (We could’ve paid for it but my daugher didn’t want it to come out of our pocket.) After I explained it to the nurse she told me why they did it that way and when I explained that it was stupid. I was able to get them to wave their stupid rules (which is suppose to be allowed in emergencies) when I explained that I and my husband where regular patients there and I could assure them that I would do all I can to sue them if something happened to her because she was denied a rescue inhaler and that I would get the press involved in it if they did nothing. Needless to say they told me I could come in an pick it up for her right away and I did.
I think its a combo of things but because inhalers apparently are used as some sort of device to get high or something like that, it is extremely monitored now. A little to much to the point where no one wants to be thought as supplying it illegally. I personally think its stupid and its going to cause someone their life at some point. In trying to keep it out of the wrong hands they are also keeping it out of the hands of the people who need it.

augustlan's avatar

That’s crazy. I mean, they could see that you’d had the prescription in the past, right? My pharmacy will usually even give me a few pills if I need them before they can reach my doctor.

Bellatrix's avatar

I have read two stories in the last week about people with mild/moderate asthma dying. They were suddenly overcome during an attack. [I don’t suffer from asthma so please excuse me if I use the wrong terminology]. It just seems criminal to me that a pharmacy would leave you in a potentially dangerous and even life-threatening situation for days. They obviously knew you have been prescribed such medication previously. You didn’t just walk in off the street and ask for it. Totally inappropriate.

geeky_mama's avatar

I’m so glad to hear your reactions matched mine. Yes, the pharmacy tech could see the prescription—but because it didn’t have any remaining refills left he wouldn’t give me the inhaler. He said it was their policy to wait up to three days to get the refill authorization from the doctor’s office.

I told him my doctor’s office would respond instantly (and really, they do – they are quite wonderful) and then he reiterated that they (the pharmacy) had up to 3 days. I found out later that he never even contacted my doctor’s office when I requested it at 9am until much later in the day (around 3pm).
So, the problem was entirely with the tech’s unwillingness to pick up the phone and contact my doctor’s office. The tech was treating a rescue inhaler as the same as a refill of any other medication.
The point I tried to get across to the pharmacy tech is that a rescue inhaler is not the same as a refill of Lipitor or Amoxycillan.

Based on this event I spent a portion of last night writing a letter of complaint to the Pharmacy chain. (It’s a big box retailer with pharmacy)—because while I’ll never take the risk of not having an inhaler in the house again (although nearly 6 months went by where I didn’t need one) the pharmacy needs to change their 3 day policy with respect to rescue inhalers. It could mean life or death for someone with more severe asthma.

And, @Pandora – starting in 2009 the FDA in the US did away with the traditionally used chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to “propel” the albuterol into the lungs. The new alternative propellant, hydroflouroalkane (HFA) replaces all the CFC propellants that people could possibly abuse (in the past). So, it’s not like I could be trying to get something that could be abused. And my doctor’s office was very willing to call in a refill ..and my insurance was very willing to pay for the was all just an unwilling pharmacy tech.

Buttonstc's avatar

I would definitely take this as high up the ladder in the corporate chain as possible. This was a judgement call on the part of the person with whom you delay. And clearly his judgement was extremely faulty.

As a side not about the propellant change. That’s also totally ridiculous. The regulation did not get passed due to previous abuses but rather as part of the total package aimed primarily at the stuff used in auto/other air conditioning systems.

To include asthma inhalers in with the rest is totally ridiculous. How much of that actually ends up polluting the air. Good grief. Its just Big Brother government regulation run amuck.

The main ones to benefit were the drug companies. Prior to this inhalers had been available generically (since the original patent rights had expired) for reasonable prices. But now due to the new propellant creating z New formula , patent rights start all over and prices skyrocket again.

Its at times like these that I fully understand Ron Paul’s objections to a “Nanny State” ruling over us.

Pandora's avatar

@geeky_mama It was before they changed the medication but as someone who has had the medical and insurance companies try to find excuses for not paying for something or making getting some medications difficult, it is not surprising. I don’t believe there are any good reasons to deny a rescue inhaler. It all comes down to someone doesn’t give a crap.

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