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Allergy Drug Gets Over The Counter Approval

Allergy Drug Gets Over The Counter ApprovalWhile Claritin will soon be readily available without a prescription, the change may not have all patients – or doctors – breathing easier, says a Tufts expert.

Boston [12.09.02] Nearly 10 years after Claritin first received FDA approval, the widely-popular prescription allergy drug has been approved for over-the-counter sales. The change could make it easier for millions of consumers to buy the pills, but a Tufts expert says the drug's increased availability may not have all patients - or doctors - breathing easier.

"Claritin's maker - Schering-Plough - and many allergists fought the move, but in the end, the government decided Claritin was safe enough for consumers to use on their own without consulting a doctor," reported Boston's Channel 5 News. "It will soon be available next to the cough syrup and Sudafed."

As Claritin's makers prepare their advertising blitz to announce the change, Tufts' Dr. Bill Gouevia says there may be some negative consequences to making the medication so widely available.

"I believe in patient choice and patients directing their own care," Gouveia - an associate professor at Tufts' School of Medicine - told Channel 5. "My fear is that patients will overuse it because it will be heavily advertised and promoted, and they'll use it in conditions in which they really don't need to."

Claritin's new over-the-counter status is expected to result in lowered prices for the medication, which can cost $60 for a 30-day prescription.

"In Canada, where Claritin is already available without prescription, it costs $17," reported the ABC News affiliate. Prices in the United States are expected to follow suit.

But the savings may not reach some patients, says Gouveia. Depending on their drug or HMO plans, patients actually may find over-the-counter Claritin to be more expensive than their old prescription version.

A new allergy drug produced by Claritin's makers - called Clarinex -- may prove to be a less expensive option for some consumers, he said.

"The drugs are clinically equivalent, and there's no reason you shouldn't use one over the other," Gouveia - who is the Director of Pharmacy at Tufts-New England Medical Center - told the ABC News affiliate. "So if it's cheaper for you to get over the counter Claritin, you should do that. But if it's cheaper for you to go to your doctor and get a prescription for Clarinex, you really should do that."

 

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