British Lung Foundation
33,821 members41,265 posts

Asda will sell reliever inhalers in its stores without the need for a prescription from next week. What do you think about this?

Plans to sell two common types of reliever inhalers in Asda stores from next week have been announced. The move is aimed at making the lives of people with lung conditions like asthma and COPD easier, by removing the need for people to see their doctor or nurse or get a prescription when they run low on their medication. You can read more by following this link:

We'd like to know what you think about this. Will it make your life easier? Would you like to see more high street pharmacies selling reliever medication? Or do you think you should have to have a prescription to get this type of medication? Let us know your thoughts!

Thank you!

30 Replies

One wonders of the many levels going on here and where this may lead in the interest of the patient or the marketing saleperson!

Its a prescribed drug with dangers of detrimental side affects on overdose. There will always be those who are unaware of these and those who don't care and overuse it any way. Not sure if I can see how this supermarket selling of prescribed drugs could be properly monitored safely.

On the other hand some would think this is a great idea, convenient, cheaper etc, but then that would be what Asda would like the consumers to focus on.

I believe most patients with real breathing difficulty would always plan to avoid ever running out of their inhaler meds.

Personally I just email my repeat prescription request and a couple of days later I pick it up from the chemist or if I am ill or the weather conditions are bad, the chemist will deliver foc.


are they being helpfull or cashing in, less than 10% discount, will they be and continue to be obtained from a reliable source


My local GP practice applied for a pharmacy licence to dispense at the surgery. This would have been fantastic for the patients, as the two pharmacies in town are both located on extremely steep hills with no parking. Both pharmacies are snowed under with prescriptions and there can be mix ups and delays - I waited three weeks for a Symbicort inhaler last September. Did my surgery get it's licence? No! But the Morrison's supermarket on the edge of town was granted one! Worse still - they haven't used it - there is no pharmacy there!

As regards the sale of inhalers at ASDA - i am 100% against. I am against it because this is not being done for patient convenience or patient care. This is being done as part of the ongoing, relentless, inch by inch dismantling of the NHS. This is being done to line the pockets of ASDA - you go in for your inhaler and go out with the shopping too. Remember this government has supermarket MD's and other business moguls regularly invited to No10 to advise on policy. They seem to have the ear of the cabinet and are in a far stronger position than the doctors, consultants, nurses and patients of this country. I predict there will be far more than just inhalers for sale at ASDA and other strong arm major supermarkets over the next year or two. I also predict we will have far fewer GP Practices down the line too. There are already a number that have sadly closed down but that never gets a mention.

We are slowly but surely advancing towards the American model of healthcare. That was the plan from before this government came into power. Tighten your seatbelts everyone and prepare for a two tier health system. Parvati


i agree Parvati,we are on a downward spiral with this government,scary


Prescription drugs should stay just that. I don't have to see my doctor for meds, I just put in my repeat prescription at the chemist and it's dealt with.


When my husband first started with COPD - he did start using my asthma inhalers !! (I know what you are all thinking) but it did show him that his breathlessness could be relieved, well sort of - after much arguing I insisted he went to the Doc. Would I recommend it - never! It is ridiculous to think that you could buy inhalers because you are running low. What if you take the wrong inhaler, what if you take the wrong dosage. Conditions that require inahlers require careful monitoring. TAD


I am not sure which inhalers this refers to and I assume it will still be "pharmacy only" rather than off the shelf. It is already possible to buy ventolin inhalers from pharmacies without prescription, they take lots of details and let your GP know. I have found this very useful on a couple of occasions. Once when I went to work without my ventolin and another time when on holiday in the hebrides when I nearly ran out.


I've read the article in the newspaper - it doesn't give a great deal of information about how the system will work. Is it actually going to be Joe Bloggs can walk into Asda, speak to the Pharmacist and be given an inhaler. Or is this a scheme to reduce prescription costs - anyone prescribed with one of the inhalers can choose to buy it cheaper rather than pay for a prescription - again with a prior "agreement" with GP.

There certainly are risks - people over medicating themselves because they can but another inhaler when the one they have has run out due to overuse or worsening of symptoms.



(Quote)Customers over 16 years old will be asked to fill in a questionnaire about their condition before buying their medication.The service will be overseen by qualified pharmacists and an online doctor service.(End Quote)

On second reading it doesn't look too bad. Two inhalers (Ventolin?) for £7.00 looks pretty good for folk who pay prescription costs. If it's policed properly it seems a good idea.


I would suspect that users of the inhalers will welcome being able to pop in and buy without the need of a prescription and saving money is always a bonus. However, anyone can fill in any details on a questionnaire (not necessarily truthfully) and I worry about people using them wrongly or unnecessarily.


i have a confession...... i am a nightmare for losing my blue inhaler, i have dropped it into places ( loo,mud) and its no longer hygienic to use. So from my point of view it is a good idea ,

i am worried those who "think" they need one, without ever being prescribed one, might take advantage of this.

so truth is i am 50/50 about this.


I too have a "thing" about my blue inhaler, I need one upstairs, downstairs, in every pocket and handbag. I dont think they will sell them willy nilly. that would be irresponsible. Just have to wait and see............................Years ago on holiday in florida before I was diagnosed with copd, the air was awful and I thought it was my asthma that was making me short of breath, but I was so bad I ran out of my inhalers, and thank god I was able to buy one in walmart!!


You can buy Ventolin, antibiotics , preds all over the counter in Spain, really handy and you don't tend to get people abusing it.


I personally think it is a great idea. How often does someone with copd, or Asthma suddenly realise they have lost their pump, or forgotten to take it with them. Often and then panic sets in fearing an attack. As has been suggested you can buy pumps, preds, and antibiotics over the counter in Spain. Once in the Canaries I needed to as as had an exacerbation out there. So started to treat myself. Let people take some control for themselves I say.


For years I used to ask a friend who visited Spain every month, to purchase Ventolin for me.At the time I did not have a pre payment certificate so buying from Spain was much cheaper.I now buy a yearly pre paid pres. but think if asthma medication was free people would not need this excuse of expense to support supermarket supplies.I am not 60 yet but have 12 repeat prescriptions.I am on the higheast levels of DLA but have to pay for prescriptions.


On the one hand I can see the benefit for peeps who have been dx and know they are buying the right drug and how often to use it etc. Also the slight saving.

I do have concerns however. Some peeps who do not want to go to see a doc experiencing SOB may buy this drug innapropriately because they know someone who's breathlessness is relieved by them, when asthma may not be the cause of their SOB at all. We know asthma for example has two components 1. the narrowing of the airways 2. inflammation - therefore it may well be that they need a combination of bronchodiator and steroid.

Another concern 'is this the tip of the iceberg'. I certainly do not agree with selling powerful drugs like pred or abs over the counter as in Spain. I would expect the pharmasist would ask questions so they would be sold an ab suitable for their symptoms. However without MS&C it is anyones guess which is correct. I know whilst waiting for MS&C results many of us start an ab which we have at home. The problem arises if the bugs are not sensitive to the ab bought from Asda, whereas if you have taken in a sample into the docs, you and your doc will then know which as is the right one to kick the bugs into touch. Hope this makes sense sorry not very well written - fuzzy head.

Personally I don't agree with some of the stuff they sell over the counter in supermarkets at present which do not require a discussion with the pharmasist eg. Ibuprofen. In the main pharmacies are situated close to a surgery (obviously there are exceptions) and for the sake of those who would struggle to get to the supermarket and need their drugs they are well placed. I would hate for the local pharmacies to close because the 'big boys' had the monopoly. I can see a pharmacy in a supermarket as convenient for many, but I believe they should be on the same level playing field as local pharmacies and should not be able to sell inhalers off prescription.

I vote no.



No from me too, for the reasons given by both parvati and cofdrop. Some people who ought really to be seeing their gp will be self-treating and risk ignoring what could be a serious condition.

The few times I've lost my Ventolin (or dropped it down the loo!), I've never had a problem getting one free from a pharmacy, on my word that I'll get a prescription sent to them.

Most people who need significant meds have a prescription season ticket anyway, which is an absolute bargain imho.

We don't want to go down the road of other countries where drugs can be bought willy-nilly - this is partly why the world has a problem with drug resistant bugs!

And we definitely don't want to line asda/walmart's pockets and creep towards a 2-tier system. Parvati has got it dead right there. I don't trust Asda's, or this govt's, motives one tiny bit



You need to prove you need the inhaler,either by producing a repeat script,and you have to have a consultation with the Pharmacist,they don't just hand one over and say thanks that's £7 please.

What if you have heard from a friend that a Blue Inhaler made their breathing easier,so you go to your Doctor and ask for one.

The Doctor say's you can't have one for whatever reason,so off you go to Asda to buy one.

Where would the responsibility lie if you did yourself some harm by buying one?

I think more info is needed.



The responsibility would lie with the purchaser for being stupid!


It's a great idea when I run low on my inhalers due to un forseen circumstances such as a cold or allergic reaction. I travel all over the world and I am able to buy inhalers over the counter. I am responsible and able to manage my asthma with my inhalers it's about time I was able to do so without having to give 24 hours notice to my doctor or making an appointment every time I need more. I assume that most ofthenegative comments are from people concerned for others but would actually buy themselves. Also we don't have all the facts as to the limits to the qty etc that you an buy from ASDA. Either way I AMA supporter.


I can agree with those people who are in favour and those against,it's very difficult,I am now 63 and have used ventolin inhalers since I was 17,know have emphysema ,and so continue to use the inhalers.

I worked as a long distance lorry driver for many years,and often bought an "emergency:supply over the counter,when abroad mainly in Europe it was quite a straightforward purchase.

I just cannot see why anyone would want to buy one if they did not need it .

I can certainly see Parvati point that it's to make ASDA even greater profit,but I can still see advantages,I shall certainly get an extra inhaler to take on holiday with me,without having to see my excellent GP to do so.



I absolutely respect your point of view but please don't make assumptions, certainly not on my behalf. Firstly my comments are not negative they are just my opinions as yours are yours. Secondly I certainly would not buy one myself from Asda as you implied.



Cannot help but question as to why when I manage to go through an inhaler in a couple of days due to an infection etc it takes me as an asthmatic 48 hrs to get one, and yet in one very dramatic change they are going to allow inhalers to everyone at the drop of a hat?

Just wondering why they havent made the process easier for those who need them first before this?


No No No Asda this is for the profesionals to deal with not a supermarket, also who will deal with this matter and why pay when most people with Astama or C O P D do not have to pay for their inhalers so why give you money.


I spoke to asda pharmacy and they have said the scheme, It is only for mild sufferers who use the inhalers no more than twice a day! not chronic Asthmatics/chronic sufferers of COPD or people with greater need of the inhalers

So refused me :-( Bur feel this A good idea in theory for people though who Aren't heavily reliant...

or like me who lose the things when they drop from my pocket as did recently arrghh..


i was really low on ventolin and was going on holiday the following day, went to asda in merryhill shopping centre near dudley, i said i needed ventolin inhalers and they asked me how many times a day i used it, i said 3 or 4, they refused to give them to me as they said i was using it too often.

I then gave them a prescription issued from my DOCTOR but still they refused, i attend asthma clinic, and doctor and they know how much i use them, but ASDA think they are above them


I know I'm finding this when it's stale news but hope it's ok to add my feelings. I wholeheartedly support this. My surgery hands out inhalers as if they were gold encrusted with perfect diamonds, ie very stingy. My asthma is very reactive despite taking antihistamines and working with the asthma clinic to try and find a way to keep it more stable, but the the dosage I take still varies quite widely from week to week. If I put in a prescription for a ventolin inhaler sooner than 3 weeks from the last one my repeat prescription is cancelled and I have to see the doctor or asthma nurse, who invariably writes me a prescription for my inhaler, reinstates my 'repeat' and tells me 'it's ok don't worry just order more when you need it'. The whole sorry process to be repeated next time I run out 'prematurely'. Being able to buy an inhaler over the counter when I have a cold, or an allergy hits out of nowhere rather than having to wait a week for my surgery to decide whether I can live or not would be a godsend. I didn't know Asda were doing this, off to check it out straight away, just hope they are not charging prohibitive prices for them.


I think this is a great idea for the short term especially if it is impossible to get to a doctor straight away but I don't thnk it should be relied on on it's own.


I know this is an old subject here but I agree with being able to buy them over the counter in cases of emergency as I always run out of my inhalers as I lose them at work, sometimes forget due to prescriptions lines only being open during 11am-2pm at my doctor so I can't call because I am working. I am actually sitting here now with about 2 puffs left in my inhaler and that is how I actually found this because I was trying to work out a way of being able to get one on a Sunday. Why can't the places that are accepted to dispense them hold a computer database with names of patients that are already under treatment for Astma etc so that they can produce ID and then they can confirm that they are entitled to this and when they was last prescribed them and how many so that will stop misuse straight away as questions would then be raised if the person is taking a suspicious amount of them. I mean for example I would probably only need this service once a month at the most just to top up when I am running low and can't get to a doctors for a prescription or like now when I did have a full one but I can't find it anywhere. I am actually starting to panic now as I don't know what to do, and I have ended up in Hospital quite ill for reasons like this in the past, when I could of actually died, so it really is no joke. So my suggestion is, the places have to get a licence and therefore have a database of people who have repeat prescriptions etc. And then also supply us with a card stating what meds we are on so that is all we can get prescribed, just like if you are on steroids, you need to carry a steroid card, I know for different reasons but I am sure you understand what I am saying, so as long as it is controlled properly with a pharmacist and a card/ or computer details, or all then I can not see how it can be abused and it could actually save lives, trips to A&E which are already to busy, and the same as out of hours GPs who are also under so much pressure to deal with the out of hours services. This would actually take a lot of pressure off GPs in general and the NHS. Again if someone uses it to much then it would be flagged up on the system and they would be booked an appointment with there GP to answer questions, if they don't turn up, or fail to several times ten the privileged can be taken away as they are clearly abusing it. I really hope people read this and let me know what you think ? Also is there genuinely anywhere I can get a ventolin inhaler right now at 19.32 on a Sunday evening ? Many thanks


Would love to see this for a trial.

Although I am quite organised with medication it could be useful to buy off the shelf. Also it may reduce the use of antibiotics in the general population, when if folk try Ventolin for a short while for minor inflammation, and then don't need to ask for AB's .

Of course there a few issues, eg. inhaler technique and so on.

Let's see how it pans out!


You may also like...