April 15, 2024

AstraZeneca, the U.K.-based maker of popular inhalers like Symbicort and Airsupra, announced Monday that it plans to cap costs for patients using its inhalers in the U.S. at $35 per month starting June 1. The inhalers treat asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which combined affect roughly 41 million Americans and can make breathing extremely difficult.

The announcement comes after rival company Boehringer Ingelheim announced earlier this month that the cost of its inhalers would also be capped at $35 for American consumers. AstraZeneca’s decision is a major win for Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups that have been pressing for radical change in the pharmaceutical industry.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America released a statement applauding the announcement from AstraZeneca but stressed there was more work to do.

“AAFA applauds AstraZeneca’s announcement to cap costs of asthma inhalers and urges other manufacturers to take similar steps to make medications more affordable and accessible,” AAFA President and CEO Kenneth Mendez said in a statement published online Monday.

“AAFA continues to raise the voice of the patient community and draw attention to the ways America’s complex drug pricing ecosystem makes asthma medications more expensive for people who need them most. Drug manufacturers, pharmacy benefit managers, insurers, employers, and the government operate in a perverse system that drives prices higher—and all stakeholders must work together to improve affordability and access,” Mendez continued.

American consumers pay some of the highest prices in the world for prescription medications, often due to a ban passed by Congress in 2003 that prohibited the U.S. government from negotiating for better drug prices. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 sought to wind back that law for some medications, but it will take years to be fully implemented.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, also celebrated the move by AstraZeneca on Monday, pointing out that Americans pay, “10 to 70 times more for the same exact inhalers as patients in Europe and other parts of the world.”

Sanders and other members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee have been holding hearings on the astronomical prices paid by Americans for prescription drugs. The senator stressed that other companies should follow what AstraZeneca and Boehringer Ingelheim have done.

“Today, I am calling on the two other major manufacturers of inhalers—GlaxoSmithKline and Teva—to take similar action. If AstraZeneca and Boehringer Ingelheim can cap the cost of inhalers at $35 in the United States, these other companies can do the same,” Sanders said in a statement.

“The Senate HELP Committee will continue to do everything we can do to make sure that Americans no longer pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs,” Sanders continued.

The four inhaler brands that will be price-capped by AstraZeneca include Airsupra, Bevespi Aerosphere, Breztri Aerosphere, and Symbicort.

A version of this article originally appeared on Gizmodo.

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