The Food and Drug Administration has approved the allergy drug Claritin® (loratadine) as an over-the-counter drug instead of by prescription.
All five formulations of the brand should be hitting stores throughout the country, according to Schering-Plough Corporation spokesman William O’Donnell. Loratadine is approved to treat seasonal rhinitis, a condition marked by a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing and itchy nose.
The price, which is set by retailers, has been estimated at between 92 cents and $1.17 a pill, compared to an average of $3.80 for each pill in a prescription.
Loratadine is the only over-the-counter medication approved for treating indoor and outdoor allergens, works 24 hours, and doesn’t make the person feel tired during the day.
However, some doctors urge caution, and recommend that allergy sufferers still talk to a doctor before taking the drug.
“Not all patients have the same symptoms. So people should have an individual evaluation,” says Clifford W. Bassett, M.D., an allergist in private practice in New York City. “Some people may need two or three different medications.”
While loratadine is good for treating runny noses and sneezing, other prescribed medications such as nasal steroid inhalers can complement loratadine and other antihistamines by relieving stuffy and congested noses.
He says people shouldn’t diagnose themselves, particularly if they have something complicated by allergies such as asthma or sinusitis. Sinusitis is the inflammation of the nasal sinuses, hollow cavities within the cheekbones around the eyes and behind the nose.
About 10 percent to 30 percent of adults in the United States suffer from seasonal allergy symptoms. In April 1993, loratadine was approved as one of the first generation antihistamines developed to be less sedating than traditional antihistamines. The patent on the drug expires soon, meaning other companies can produce the medication.