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The Soaring Cost of a Simple Breath

Asthma — the most common chronic disease that affects Americans of all ages, about 40 million people — can usually be well controlled with drugs, if one can afford them, the New York Times reports. But being able to afford prescription medications in the United States often requires top-notch insurance or plenty of disposable income, and time to hunt for deals and bargains. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the annual cost of asthma in the United States at more than $56 billion, including millions of potentially avoidable hospital visits and more than 3,300 deaths, many involving patients who skimped on medicines or did without.

In 2012, generics increased in price an average of 5.3 percent, and brand-name medicines by more than 25 percent, according to a recent study by the Health Care Cost Institute, reflecting the sky-high prices of some newer drugs for cancer and immune diseases.

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