AsthmaFilter: Medication options for the uninsured?
September 18, 2012 7:05 AM   Subscribe

Current over-the-counter medication options for asthmatics?

I'm in-between insurance plans at the moment and my last inhaler is almost dead. In the past, I've used Primatene Mist as a stop-gap measure, but now it's been banned due to CFC content (:shakes fist at the EPA for banning it without having a viable alternative in place first:). The tablets do nothing for my breathing. I've had asthma all my life, and need daily maintenance meds to do anything more active than a moderately brisk walk.

YANMD, but would you write a one-off prescription for asthma medication to a new patient you probably won't see again? I can see how that might seem a bit dodgy to a doctor. Is this something an urgent care center could do? Sadly, none of my friends are doctors and I haven't seen a private practice doctor in over 10 years.
posted by smirkette to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have asthma (it only appears in the spring when I get hayfever, or after I have a bad cold), but I generally go to the walk-in clinic to get a prescription, and have never had any problems.

I'm not on a medical plan, so I have to pay for this medication out of pocket. It seems like a good investment to me.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:13 AM on September 18, 2012

YANMD, but would you write a one-off prescription for asthma medication to a new patient you probably won't see again?

I've gone to walk-in clinics* for this, although (if it matters) I just have an inhaler I use occasionally, not daily meds. I think your inhaler (or whatever) running out when you don't have a regular doctor to prescribe you a refill is really common, and they never treated me like I was doing something dodgy at all.

*Last time I checked, which was a few years ago so it may have changed, the little drugstore clinics did not handle asthma. But a regular walk-in/urgent care place will.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 7:16 AM on September 18, 2012

Yes, an urgent care will do this.
posted by gramcracker at 7:16 AM on September 18, 2012

I assume by your truly righteous CFC rage that you are in the US? I haven't had any luck in trying to get walk-in or non-pulmonary specialist doctors to write me an Rx for albuterol inhalers, alas. They all want to do the full asthma screening. It sucks.

If, however, you went to an urgent care center in the middle of a bad asthma attack, I can't see how they could possibly deny you an inhaler right then and there. They'd stick you on that nebulizer thing first, though.
posted by elizardbits at 7:17 AM on September 18, 2012

While primary care physicians would rather you have regular continuous care, they also would rather you don't get sick. I can't imagine that asking for an Rx for asthma medication (a long-term chronic condition that we have been managing our whole lives) would come off as drug-seeking behavior to a doc-in-a-box. Better to do that now than end up in the ER (ask me how I know...).
posted by Pax at 7:20 AM on September 18, 2012

I've gotten an inhaler simply by bringing my expired inhaler and telling them I was travelling or between doctors (in all cases this was true) and that, while my asthma was stable, I needed the inhaler just in case.

That works for rescue inhalers (albuterol). Not sure about maintenance inhalers, though.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:20 AM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Elizardbits makes a good point, though. If you appear to have asthma that you treat by albuterol on a regular basis, they might want to start you on a preventive medication (but they'd still write the albuterol Rx) and that might require a more comprehensive ($$) visit.
posted by Pax at 7:21 AM on September 18, 2012

IANAD IANYD - I am treated with nebulizers, though I have had both neb and inhalers prescribed by walk-in clinic (urgent care types, not drugstore types).

What helps is bringing in the old scrip container, so they know I've been under treatment but am just out because of Doc or Insurance issues.

But I also use an underlying daily med and caffeine, so I don't need the neb/inhaler unless I'm seriously already sick with bronchitis or opened a trunk full of mold. Something that can't hurt to try that helps is dark chocolate (70% caoco) if there is a cough associated with it. Not great on fast acting, but again, I usually have slow mild attacks.

Good luck.
posted by tilde at 7:22 AM on September 18, 2012

Elizardbits makes a good point, though. If you appear to have asthma that you treat by albuterol on a regular basis, they might want to start you on a preventive medication (but they'd still write the albuterol Rx) and that might require a more comprehensive ($$) visit.

Yes, I agree. There really is no need nowadays to rely on albuterol or an inhaler as a "rescuer". The emphasis now is on managing asthma so that you don't need rescuing in the first place.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:48 AM on September 18, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks all. I'm well aware that maintenance meds are the best treatment; I've been managing my asthma my entire life. As my question states, I'm looking for a stop-gap until my new insurance starts. If I thought urgent care or the like would prescribe my inhaled steroids, I would turn cartwheels. However I am definitely trying to avoid having to go through two expensive pulminory evaluations (one now, one with whatever doctor I end up with on my future insurance). Thanks.
posted by smirkette at 8:20 AM on September 18, 2012

An urgent care physician would gladly write a one-time prescription for albuterol to help avoid a trip to the ER for an asthma exacerbation. It's not an abusable drug so you wouldn't look sketchy. If you describe your symptoms like you did you could get a one-time controller prescription too, but without insurance it would cost >$100 unfortunately.
posted by slomodinkens at 8:44 AM on September 18, 2012

I have successfully gotten a new inhaler when my old one died while not having insurance. I called my old doctor and got them to write a refill and send it to the pharmacy where I paid out of pocket for it. It was around $300, so be warned.
posted by ruhroh at 8:54 AM on September 18, 2012

In the UK I just bought preventative inhaler and a blue inhaler (your brand name may vary) through an online doctor/prescription service that was totally legit. Do you have any similar services near you?

Also, as a life time asthmatic, I've seen plenty of doctors for one off inhaler issues (even while traveling - lost luggage!), it's never been a big deal.
posted by teststrip at 10:12 AM on September 18, 2012

I've gone to Walgreen's walk-in clinic for an albuterol prescription; the visit cost about $65 or so, no refills.

I called a very nice, asthma and allergy clinic and told them I didn't have insurance but I needed to stop going to the ER for attacks. They gave me an exam but not the full battery of asthma-related breathing/screening tests. The office visit was about $60. They gave me an albuterol prescription with refills! They also gave me prednisone for emergencies and long-acting (Advair) medication samples - all free. I love Advair and the first prescription is free (see their online deal). However, Advair is not affordable without insurance, it's about $300 month.

I recently found a community clinic where the office visit is $25 and they've given me a prescription with several refills. I take Asmanex now (in addition to having albuterol), which I got a prescription for from the community clinic. It's about $100 month (see online coupon) but I use less than is prescribed to make it last longer. So, my asthma is pretty well controlled, all things considered.

When I get insurance again, I'll go back to Advair. It's the wonder drug for me.
posted by shoesietart at 10:59 AM on September 18, 2012

OK, since no one's actually answering the question, I'll just add that what's worked for me is a cocktail of Sudafed (THE REAL ONE) and guaifenesin in the morning. I have "allergic asthma," though, so ymmv
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 11:40 AM on September 18, 2012

I have also gotten a prescription for salbutamol/albuterol from a doctor at an urgent care, and from various doctors at first-time visits. Nobody acted like it was a big deal at all. It's not like you're asking for a one-off prescription of morphine or Xanax or something.

Advair is a wonder drug for me, too, but I had to quit taking it when I didn't have insurance. There is (or was) a coupon on their website for a free new prescription, which is useful if you're able to get a new prescription every month instead of refilling.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 11:43 AM on September 18, 2012

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