Levalbuterol Is No More Effective Than Older, Cheaper Asthma Drugs and Should Not Be Used, Public Citizen Advises on WorstPills.org
“Worst Pills, Best Pills” Subscribers Receive Life-Saving Warnings About Dangerous Drugs Before They Are Removed From the Market
WASHINGTON, D.C. –Levalbuterol HFA (Xopenex HFA) inhalers are no more effective than older, less expensive drugs used to treat asthma and other diseases and should not be used by consumers, Public Citizen writes in a new February posting on its WorstPills.org Web site. The consumer advocacy organization cited information published in the March 2006 issue of Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics.
In 2005, Americans filled more than 2.2 million prescriptions for levalbuterol at a cost of more than $293 million. Marketed by Sepracor Inc., levalbuterol has the same atomic components as the asthma drug albuterol, which has been on the market longer and costs less. The difference is that, while albuterol has both of the two mirror images of the molecule, levalbuterol has only one. Levalbuterol is available in two forms, Xenopex [SIC]HFA, a pocket-sized inhaler approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in March 2005, and Xenopex, a liquid drug approved in 1999 that is converted to a fine mist when passed through a device called a nebulizer. Levalbuterol is short-acting and is used to relieve symptoms experienced during an asthma attack. In 1999, Public Citizen placed levalbuterol on its “Do Not Use” list of drugs because there was – and still is not – any compelling evidence that levalbuterol is safer or more effective than albuterol.
“Creating a drug that is nearly identical in nature to a drug that is already in existence and then marketing it as a ‘new’ or ‘breakthrough’ drug is a strategy that neither helps consumers nor produces better drugs,” said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. “In marketing levalbuterol as such, the manufacturer is manipulating patients into unnecessarily paying hefty prices.”...
Again, I say the value of Xopenex is not the effectiveness of the drug -- we know it's equal to the cheaper, generic albuterol in that way. But the side effects...where albuterol has the kids bouncing off the walls (especially lovely if they're already on oral steroids) levalbuterol yields negligible negative effects.
To be able to give your asthmatic child a neb at 2:00 AM and know that they'll actually be able to sleep after that is worth the higher copay.