Medicare Coverage of Xopenex (Levalbuterol)

In this article...
  • Learn about Xopenex (levalbuterol), which is used with a nebulizer or an inhaler to treat bronchospasms. Discover whether Medicare Advantage plans cover the medication.

A brand name for levalbuterol, Xopenex is used to treat the tightening of airways and wheezing (bronchospasm) brought on by asthma, COPD, lung disease and other conditions that affect breathing.

The medication belongs to the class of drugs known as short-acting beta-antagonists (SABAs). A "rescue medication," Xopenex relaxes airway muscles, opening up the airway and allowing for less constricted breathing.

Is Xopenex Covered by Medicare Advantage?

Most Medicare Advantage plans cover Xopenex or its generic equivalent. Enrollees in a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plan should check with their insurer about their exact coverage, but 66% of plans do in fact cover Xopenex or the generic version.

Original Medicare (Medicare Part B)
covers durable medical equipment, including a nebulizer, which is needed to administer Xopenex if it is taken in liquid form (see section below).

What Is the Difference Between Xopenex and Xopenex HFA?

Xopenex comes in two forms: one delivered into the body using a nebulizer and one delivered using an inhaler. 

  • Xopenex (levalbuterol hydrochloride) uses a nebulizer, which turns the liquid solution into a mist that is inhaled. This treatment is taken three times a day.
  • Xopenex HFA (levalbuterol tartrate) is an aerosol spray which is contained in a metered-dose inhaler. It is taken every 4 to 6 hours as needed.

There is a difference in effectiveness between the two forms of Xopenex. Studies have shown that the nebulizer form (Xopenex) increases breathing by 35-40%, while the inhaler form (Xopenex HFA) increases breathing by 15-20%. 

How Much Does Xopenex Cost?

The cost of Xopenex will vary according to the enrollee's specific Medicare Advantage plan and whether the enrollee is still in the deductible stage of coverage. (For the year 2022, Medicare drug plans are capped at a deductible of $480.)

What Are the Side Effects of Xopenex? 

Common side effects of Xopenex include diarrhea, vomiting, headache, dizziness and runny nose. More serious side effects include heart palpitations, changes in blood pressure and an allergic reaction.

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