Respiratory Therapy Access Working Group

Respiratory conditions have a staggering impact on U.S. patients and healthcare expenses, as statistics show. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affects an estimated 24 million Americans. Meanwhile, 26 million Americans suffer from asthma, 7.1 million of which are children.

These conditions not only cheat patients of quality of life, they also exact a high price from the U.S. health care system. Asthma costs the United States approximately $56 billion annually; $1.6 billion from asthma inpatient costs alone. And national COPD costs were estimated at $49.9 billion in 2010, including $29.5 billion in direct health care spending.

These conditions do not strike indiscriminately. Asthma disproportionately affects minorities, inner-city and low-income children. Yet patient access can compound these disparities – and introduce additional challenges. Though minority children, African Americans and Puerto Ricans in particular, are more likely to have asthma, they are less likely than white children to take daily medication to control the condition. These challenges aren’t limited to children. Nearly one in four African American adults can’t afford their asthma medication.

One factor impeding patient access to prescribed therapies is the growing burden of out-of-pocket cost sharing expenses. As the COPD Foundation notes, “Many members of our community have come forward to let us know that they have been forced to switch medications despite being well controlled on their current medication regimen and without input from their doctor. Many have experienced negative side effects and diminished quality of life due to these changes.”

Off-loading the financial burden of respiratory conditions onto patients does not offer a viable alternative to the high costs and incidence of respiratory disease.  To find a feasible long-term solution, and to ensure that patients can access the therapies they need, physicians’ voices must be part of framing and informing the policy debates on respiratory care and coverage.

The Respiratory Therapy Access Working Group is a project of the Alliance for Patient Access, a national network of physicians with the shared mission of ensuring and protecting patient access to approved therapies and appropriate clinical care. AfPA accomplishes this mission through educating members on policy priorities and training them to be effective patient advocates.


Allen Meadows, M.D. serves as Chairman of AfPA’s RespiratoryJ Allen Meadows ACAAI 2014-7002 Therapy Access Working Group. Dr. Meadows is clinical instructor of internal medicine and clinical instructor of family practice at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, and a solo community-based practitioner at the Alabama Allergy & Asthma Clinic in Montgomery, Ala. He is Chairman of the Advocacy Council of the ACAAI and Past President of the JCAAI.

He served as president of the Alabama Society of Allergy and Immunology, 1995-96, and as president of the Medical Society of Montgomery County, 1999. He was a member of the Board of Censors of Medical Association State of Alabama, 2002-2004, and on Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, 2002-2004.

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