Asthma's rising cases and costs

Courtesy of Emily Hirshorn '15

Courtesy of Emily Hirshorn ’15

 

Courtesy of Emily Hirshorn '15
Courtesy of Emily Hirshorn ’15

For asthma sufferers, fall marks not only the start to the school year, but also the advent of a precarious allergy season. Doctors have seen rising numbers of individuals diagnosed with asthma and patients have seen higher costs for prescription medications to prevent symptoms. 
According to the New York Times, asthma is the most common chronic disease in the United States, affecting a total of 40 million Americans. It is a condition that causes airways to narrow and distend, resulting in difficulty breathing. Allergies and physical activities are the usual culprits of asthma.
Within the past decade, asthma has become even more prevalent in the United States. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the number of asthmatics has increased from 20 million in 2001 to 25 million in 2009.
Although asthma cannot be cured, the symptoms can easily be controlled with proper treatment. Most asthma medications are in the form of inhalers, and can be supplemented with pills or nasal sprays.

“Asthma definitely holds me back from things I want to do,” freshman Haley Horn said. “I am a member of the cross country team, and unfortunately, I have had to stop in certain races to use my inhaler because of asthma attacks.”
However, the increasing cost of medications has prevented many asthmatics from receiving the treatment they need. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the annual cost of asthma in the United States is more than $56 billion due to expensive medications and potentially avoidable hospital visits.
In an interview with The New York Times, Dr. Elaine Davenport, an employee at a mobile asthma clinic, said that the main problem with asthma is that patients cannot afford high prescription costs. 
“The thing is that asthma is so fixable,” Dr. Davenport said.  “All people need is medicine and education.”
Ms. Lisa Urquhart of EvaluatePharma, a consulting firm in London that provides drug and biotech analysis, believes that the root of the problem for these high prices is the lack of generic asthma medication brands.

Ms. Urquhart said in an interview with The New York Times, “The high prices in the U.S. are because the F.D.A (Food and Drug Administration) has set the bar so high that there is no clear pathway for generics.”
Compared to European countries’ generic asthma medications, the United States’ brand-name drugs are significantly more expensive. According to The New York Times, the same asthma medicine that costs $250 in the United States is a mere $7 in most European countries.

In the future, asthmatics hope that further FDA regulations will lower medication prices and will help alleviate the symptoms of their disease.  
“I used to have very serious asthma,” sophomore Grace Campbell said. “However, the use of appropriate medications has allowed me to manage difficult symptoms.”
-Grace Isford, Managing Editor 
For more information:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/13/us/the-soaring-cost-of-a-simple-breath.html

http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/asthma/ 
http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=8&sub=42