This is a strange one.
Thomas A. wrote to Mouse Print* about Spiriva — an inhalation therapy drug for people with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The medicine comes in a metal canister that slips into an inhaler.
What caught Thomas’ attention was the net contents statement on two different inhaler boxes — the small size (for two weeks of use) and the large size (for four weeks of use).
Both contain exactly the same amount of medicine — four grams — but one canister provides 28 doses and the other 60. How could this be?
We called the company and spoke to a nurse there to try to understand how this was possible. She directed us to the patient information sheet packed in each box.
The SPIRIVA RESPIMAT cartridge for each strength has a net fill weight of 4 grams and when used with the SPIRIVA RESPIMAT inhaler, is designed to deliver the labeled number of metered actuations (60 or 28) …
It seems the company manufactures only one size of canister but sells two different inhaler mechanisms. One delivers two-weeks-worth of medicine (28 puffs) and the other four-weeks-worth (60 puffs). So basically, the two week version is overfilled, and half the medicine goes to waste.
Now, couldn’t a smart consumer who has to use this stuff on an ongoing basis just buy the two week version and use it for a month? Or if the inhalers really are different, first get a prescription for the four week size, and then subsequently refill it with a two-week canister and get four weeks of medicine out of it for half the price?
Nope. The company is not stupid.
When the labeled number of actuations (60 or 28) has been dispensed from the inhaler, the RESPIMAT locking mechanism will be engaged and no more actuations can be dispensed.
The cash price for a month’s supply of Spiriva is enough to take your breath away — about $400. The two week version is generally only available in hospitals or as a doctor’s sample.
If the company can afford to overfill the two week cartridges, that suggests the actual cost of the medicine must be minimal.