MADISON, Wis. — Sen. Tammy Baldwin spoke to health care workers in Madison Friday afternoon to learn more about how the rising price of inhalers is impacting patients.

What You Need To Know

  • Senator Tammy Baldwin held a roundtable with health care leaders on the cost of inhalers Friday

  • It was part of her investigation into what she calls "price gouging" on the cost of inhalers

  • Senator Baldwin says an inhaler can cost as much as $600 in the U.S.

  • She said she's reached out to the four main inhaler manufacturers but hasn't heard back

It was part of her investigation into what she calls “price gouging” on the cost of inhalers.

“The drug manufacturers themselves set the price,” Baldwin said. “That's where it starts, they set the price. You will see a price sometimes just doubled out of the blue, with no explanation.”

Dr. Kevin Fehr is a physician and Chief Medical Officer at Access Community Health Centers in Madison. As a federally qualified health care center, he’s able to give patients medications at discounted prices.

He said he doesn’t want anyone to go without an inhaler they need, but as prices go up, it impacts the clinic’s operations.

“This past year that cost our organization about $75,000,” Dr. Fehr said. “So that's money that should be going directly to patient care and not to cover and to subsidize medication increases.”

Dr. Fehr said it’s also a growing challenge to make sure each patient has the exact brand or type of medication they need.

“As prices go up, as the pharmaceutical companies start to restrict access to discounted medications through our contracted pharmacies, it makes it more difficult for us to make sure they have the medications they need,” he said.

Senator Baldwin said she’s trying to uncover why these price increases happen. She’s reached out to the four main inhaler manufacturers but said she hasn’t heard back yet.

Dr. Fehr hopes it leads to a hard look at the health care system and pharmaceutical companies.

“I think simplifying processes that are in the availability of these medications, so that it's not as complex and there aren't as many hoops for patients to go through,” he said. “I think that's where you need to start.”