Teva Halts Digital Inhalers, Another Blow to Asthma Options

in Asthma, News
Published: April 15, 2024

Inhaler options for asthma patients will shrink further when three digitally connected inhalers are discontinued on June 1, 2024. Teva Pharmaceuticals announced in an email to patients and healthcare providers that it will stop making its Digihaler products.

“It is unfortunate to hear that more asthma inhalers are being discontinued,” says Kenneth Mendez, president and CEO of the nonprofit Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

Teva’s Digihaler lineup. Photo: Teva

Teva launched the line of dry powdered inhalers, called Digihalers, in the United States in 2020. The discontinued digital inhalers include:
• ProAir Digihaler (albuterol sulfate), a rescue inhaler for ages 4 and older.
• ArmonAir Digihaler (fluticasone propionate), a maintenance inhaler for ages 12 and older.
• AirDuo Digihaler (fluticasone propionate and salmeterol), a maintenance inhaler for ages 12 and older.

The devices paired with a mobile app and dashboard to store data, such as frequency of inhaler use and inhalation flow rates. Patients could then share that information with their healthcare providers to help in asthma management.

“The Teva Digihaler portfolio had offered an innovative approach to encourage adherence to treatment by integrating a digital solution with an inhaler,” Mendez says.

Teva Pharmaceuticals did not respond to Allergic Living’s requests for comment on why it is discontinuing the digital inhalers.

Pediatric allergist Dr. Zachary Rubin says the devices were especially helpful for his teen patients because of unique app feature. The patients used the Digihaler to track asthma, then discussed the information with him during appointments at Oak Brook Allergists, near Chicago. “I thought it was a good product,” he says.

Digital Inhalers: Insurance an Issue

Rubin shared the news about the discontinuation on his popular Tik Tok and Instagram pages.

He tells Allergic Living that he did not have of lot of patients who used the devices. This was mainly since they were not covered by many of their insurance plans.

“Time and time again with asthma, access is the issue,” Rubin notes. The discontinuation of the Teva digital inhalers is another blow to asthma patients. They are already facing limited availability due to cost and supply.

“We are again disappointed that these treatment options will no longer be available to those who have been using them,” says Lynda Mitchell, CEO of the nonprofit Allergy & Asthma Network (AAN).

The medication contained in the Digihalers is available in other inhalers without the digital technology. However, Mitchell says switching to a new inhaler might not be without issue.

The concern is whether insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers “will allow for that transition without affecting the cost or availability to patients who need to switch,” she says.

Inhaler Switches and Asthma Control

Rubin knows this issue well. The physician continues to face insurance rejections and requests for prior authorizations in his efforts to find his patients alternatives for Flovent.

As of January 1, 2024, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) discontinued Flovent. This set off continuing struggles to find suitable alternatives for patients who relied on the popular corticosteroid inhaler.

An authorized generic of Flovent is available, but not all insurance plans are covering the generic version. Other inhalers are in short supply, such as Asmanex, while others are not suitable for children.

When Flovent was discontinued, some patients might have been transitioned to ArmonAir Digihaler, Mendez notes. They will once again be searching for an alternative treatment. That will be especially the case if the authorized generic of Flovent is not an option under their insurance.

“Continuity of treatment is important for effective asthma care,” Mendez notes. “These frequent changes threaten to disrupt the efficacy of care received by some patients.” 

Have a Digital Inhaler? Talk to Your MD

Rubin is hopeful that the move by three major pharmaceutical companies to cap out-of-pocket inhaler costs could provide some relief for asthma patients. AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim and GSK announced they will cap the price of their respiratory inhalers at $35.

The price caps, which go into effect June 1, 2024 for some inhalers, came after Senate lawmakers launched an investigation into high inhaler costs. Teva Pharmaceuticals was also part of the lawmakers’ January 2024 review, but it has not announced price caps.

Patients who are currently using one of the Teva digital inhalers should discuss alternatives with their doctor now, Rubin says.

“Leave time to navigate any insurance issues with your doctor so you can be sure to have your new prescription in hand before you need to use it,” Mitchell adds.  

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