A pharmacy counter with missing inhalers in the center

Out of Stock - But Not Out of Luck

Everything seems to be in shortage post-pandemic, and asthma medications are definitely not exempt from that! I have had my fair share of inability to access my medications, from insurance approval to miscommunication with the prescriber, to pharmacy shortages, but I am least experienced with shortages in the medication themself.

Experiencing a medication shortage

My providers and I are on the same page when it comes to my medicines - sometimes it takes my body longer to figure out it likes the medication, but after a few months it is either kicked to the curb or joins the medication crew. Over the many many years of trial and error with treatments, there has been one tried and true controller that stuck with me the entire time. It was just my luck that the most unfortunate medication shortage I experienced was of this very medication.

A backup plan for my asthma medication

Thankfully, my doctor warned me at a follow-up appointment that my beloved inhaler was hard to find at the moment. He had a backup plan for a medication that was similar (had 1 of the 2 medications the same) but definitely not identical. Pretty soon I was out of my original controller and had to move on to the alternative.

Since I had tried literally every combination inhaler in the book, I had taken this medication before. I had low expectations since it had not been beneficial previously, but at this point was desperate for something that would at least serve as a substitute.

When I switch medications, it always seems like I qm starting from scratch. The usual couple of months it takes for the medicine to kick in is restarted, and I am riding the struggle bus for a bit. This time was slightly different; since the medications were relatively similar, my body seemed to recognize this new inhaler. It was not as great as the controller that has always served me well, but it was definitely better than being without anything.

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What to do when a medication is out of stock

Every experience with a medication shortage has been different, but I have ultimately gotten through them with a few tips and tricks.

  1. Have a conversation with your providers. If you are really struggling on the substitute medication, see if there is another biologically similar option you can try. For instance, if you are changing your combination medication of A and B to one with B and C, maybe there is an option with A and D that would work better.
  2. Be open to additional medication changes. When I was really struggling with a certain medication shortage, my provider was able to increase the dose of another controller I was taking to see if it would help me get over the hump. I never like to increase my medications unless it is absolutely necessary, but I definitely want to feel better and sometimes this a solid temporary fix.
  3. Do your own research.  Not that I am recommending Google-ing as the best source of health information, but I am a huge advocate of being educated and informed about your options and your health. Your doctor may know the biology of your health the best, but you experience it every day. You know your body best, and you are your own best advocate. Talk to your doctor about your research.
  4. Give yourself extra TLC.  Medication shortages and changes are sometimes really hard on your body, so it never hurts to take extra good care of yourself to combat these.

I never enjoy having to switch medications from something that really works for me, but I've learned with experience that it doesn't have to be the end of the world. Just because something is out of stock doesn't mean you're out of luck!

Have you had experience with a medication shortage? How did you manage your asthma if your medication was out of stock? Share your story with the community.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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