‘Wonder drug’ poses problem for albuterol

Sunday, November 30, 2003

WASHINGTON - Two doses per day: Those four words could spell trouble for four-dose-a-day albuterol, which has dominated the respiratory market for years.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently granted conditional approval for Foradil Certihaler, a long-acting beta-agonist bronchodilator co-developed by Skye Pharma and Novartis Pharma for the treatment of asthma and prevention of bronchospasm. The drug’s combination of a rapid onset time of just 1-3 minutes and a long-lasting bronchodilation period of 12 hours have some in the industry calling Foradil the “next big thing.”

“[Foradil] will have a tremendous impact on albuterol sales,” said Mickey Letson, president of Letco Medical. “It is already starting to replace a lot of albuterol sales. The pulmonologists are prescribing it a lot.”

Recognizing the drug’s benefits, CMS already has begun formulating a reimbursement for the generic form of Foradil.

Like albuterol, Foradil is fast acting and has a short treatment time, typically eight minutes for a 3-cc dosage. However, at just two doses per day, one in the morning and the second at night, Foradil allows patients much more freedom in their daily lives.

“For the first time you are going to be able to see a patient move freely and go on with their normal daily lives without being concerned about stopping in the middle of the day to take a treatment,” said Letson.

Foradil’s quick reaction time is an improvement over other long-lasting medications, like Seravent, which have fallen by the wayside. Servant took 3-5 minutes to take effect as opposed to the 30-60 second reaction time of Foradil or albuterol

“What happened was that the patients would literally overdose [on Seravent], because they kept taking doses while they were waiting for it take effect with the speed they were used to.” Letson said.