Do You Need a Prescription for an Inhaler? Here Are the Rules!

Posted November 30, 2020 by Michael Chamberlain - See Editorial Guidelines

There may be times and circumstances when getting an over the counter inhaler would be convenient. There are over the counter remedies available, so do you need a prescription for an inhaler? And if so, then why?

We’ll answer all your questions regarding getting a prescription for an inhaler, and we’ll start with a brief summary answer before diving into more details.

Can you get a prescription without an inhaler? You need a prescription for an inhaler in the US, but this may vary for certain states within the US. The only FDA approved inhaler you can get without a prescription is the Primatene Mist. However, this is approved only for temporary relief of asthma symptoms and not for long-term treatment.

These things are rarely straightforward, and in this case, there are indeed nuances to the rules. Let’s take a closer look at some of the details.

Inhalers are Prescription Medications

Do You Need a Prescription for an Inhaler

Asthma is a fairly complicated medical condition, especially because there are different types of asthmas and varying severities.

So, if you do indeed need an inhaler, then there are several types of inhalers (even color-coded ones) for different situations, conditions, and severities. An inhaler is, of course, a device for delivering asthma medications and is a prescription-only medication.

Legally, you need a prescription to obtain an inhaler. Or in other words, you can’t expect to get any inhaler straight over the counter.

Here’s some further information on what your pharmacist can prescribe.

The successful process for getting an inhaler is through a doctor diagnosing your asthma condition and prescribing you the best type of inhaler to suit your condition and with the least side effects. 

However you manage it, the inhaler, the medications in the inhaler, and the dosage a doctor prescribes for you will be considered along with all your other medical conditions, interactions, and so on.

This is why doctors are given the authority to prescribe because they have studied for it, and they know the most effective and safe form of an inhaler required for you. 

It is possible to get a prescription without seeing a doctor.

If you were given the ability to get an OTC inhaler without a prescription, you could possibly end up with several dangerous side effects, overdose, interactions, under treatment, and even possibly fatal results.

You Don’t Need a Prescription for an Inhaler in Some States

In some states, as with some other countries, you can get an inhaler without a prescription. But this is only possible under certain circumstances and needs to meet specific conditions.

These rules could vary depending on which state you’re in, and they could change at any time.

So, make sure to check with your physician, and they will know their respective laws and regulations if you need an inhaler without a prescription. 

Over the Counter Inhalers 

If you’re in the US, you can’t get an inhaler without a prescription for most states. However, you can get some over the counter inhalers, which don’t require a prescription.

FDA Approved OTC Inhaler

It’s important to note that the only FDA approved OTC inhaler is Primatene Mist. This inhaler was recalled from the market at one point but is now back in the market. 

The FDA approved over-the-counter Primatene Mist, as it’s only for the temporary relief of mild symptoms of intermittent asthma. Furthermore, it’s approved only for those who have been diagnosed with asthma by a health care provider.

The FDA also stresses that asthma is a complex medical condition, and its progress and symptoms may vary and requires medical assessment. The FDA also warns patients who may need a prescription for an inhaler, are not to rely on over-the-counter Primatene Mist alone. 

In addition, the FDA also goes a long way in specifying that patients who use prescription inhalers after being diagnosed should not stop using them, or switch to Primatene Mist.

This is the case, even if a patient may want to switch from their prescribed inhalers to these over the counter inhalers, perhaps because of price concerns. Patients must understand it could be dangerous to your health.

If you’re struggling to afford your inhaler medication, then consider enrolling with Prescription Hope. You may be able to obtain the right prescription-based inhaler for just as $50 per month. 

Not FDA Approved OTC Inhaler

Some pharmaceutical manufacturers market Asthmanefrin as an alternative to Primatene Mist. However, Asthmanefrin, another over-the-counter inhaler is not approved by the FDA.

Even though Asthmanefrin may be accessible and affordable, it could potentially put your health at risk by not giving you the proper treatment you need.

Why Do You Need a Prescription?

Doctors prescribe prescription inhalers in order to control and manage the inflammation that causes asthma to develop.

Over-the-counter inhalers only provide temporary relief, albeit instantly, but this is not a long-term or permanent treatment.

On the other hand, prescription inhalers are prescribed regularly, which focuses on a slow, steady, and consistent treatment procedure, unlike over-the-counter inhalers. 

Your medical condition should be evaluated by a medical professional so that your condition is treated appropriately. The need for a prescription motivates a person to get their condition evaluated.

Therefore, using over-the-counter inhalers is both unwise and unsafe. Here’s why.

Only Intended for Short-Term Use

Firstly, over-the-counter inhalers were never intended for the treatment of an asthma condition.

According to a study in Florida in 2014, which indicates that over-the-counter inhalers are only meant and intended for temporary relief. For circumstances such as for mild intermittent asthma symptoms.

They should only be used when you run out of prescribed medications or if you’re traveling and forgot your prescription inhaler.

An emergency situation such as this would mean that getting an OTC inhaler is needed. This is not a permanent solution, though.

Masks Other Illnesses

Do You Need a Prescription for an Inhaler

Secondly, using an over-the-counter inhaler is deemed unsafe because it can mask or hide other serious health conditions.

We all know wheezing, cough, chest tightness and shortness of breath are classic symptoms of asthma.

However, the same symptoms are relatable for health conditions such as heart diseases or COPD.

This is again why in the US you can only get inhalers through prescriptions.

If you use an over-the-counter inhaler, it can seize the symptoms and signs of other potential health conditions that you mistake it to be for asthma.

Why a Prescription for an Inhaler is Important?

When you need a prescription for an inhaler, most health professionals only recommend getting an inhaler through professional diagnosis through consultation with the doctor.

This is also why patients with heart disease, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, diabetes, and difficulty in urination due to an enlarged prostate gland, are warned not to obtain over-the-counter inhalers without any doctor’s consultation or diagnosis.

Existing asthma patients are requested to obtain doctors’ advice on using an over-the-counter inhaler in most circumstances for such reasons as to avoid masking or interacting with other health conditions. 

Conclusion

We hope this has given you a better understanding of why inhalers require a prescription. Any inhaler acquired without a prescription or doctor’s approval can be unsafe and detrimental to your health. If you’re in any doubt and need a prescription for an inhaler, then we strongly recommend that you consult your doctor.

If you’re having trouble affording any of your medications, enroll with us and see if you qualify to pay only $50 a month for each of your medications.



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