Pocketbook Relief for Allergy Sufferers: Consumer Reports Project Finds Inexpensive OTC Drug as Effective as Costly Prescriptions; OTC Loratadine Could Save Allergy Sufferers $1,400 or More a Year
WASHINGTON, Aug. 11 -- Allergy sufferers who pay upwards of $80 a month for a brand-name prescription drug can find just as effective relief at a sixth the cost - or even less - by considering the over-the-counter drug loratadine, the latest “Best Buy” pick from Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs.
The new, free report on allergy medications concludes that loratadine -- the generic version of the former top-selling prescription drug Claritin -- is as effective and safe at relieving allergy symptoms as its prescription rivals Allegra, Clarinex, and Zyrtec, and is significantly less expensive. For example, a month’s supply of Zyrtec (10mg) costs $82. Over-the- counter loratadine pills range in prices from as low as $3 to about $20 per month.
The price of loratadine varies so much because of competition among drug store chains, some of which now have their own store- brand generic versions of the medicine. A Claritin brand of OTC loratadine is also widely available, but tends to be more expensive than generic versions.
“Unfortunately, millions of Americans suffer from allergies. But when it comes to antihistamine choices, consumers are really in the driver’s seat,” said Gail Shearer, project director of Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs.
About a quarter of Americans have hay fever or allergies. And more than half of all Americans now test positive to one or more allergens, double the percentage of 30 years ago, according to a new report from researchers at the National Institutes of Health.
“If you are given a prescription for an expensive, brand-name antihistamine, you should talk to your doctor about that choice because less-expensive, effective drugs are available,” Shearer said.
The new report on antihistamine drugs can be found at the FREE Web site http://www.CRBestBuyDrugs.org. Also, Consumer Reports Medical Guide will have FREE information on dealing with allergy symptoms, including what triggers allergies, how to choose allergy medication and a quick quiz on sensitivity to medications. That site will launch Aug. 24 at http://www.consumerreports.org/mg/allergies along with a link to the Best Buy Drugs report.
The seven versions of loratadine identified as Best Buys based on recent prevailing prices are:
-- Loratadine 10mg tablets
-- Loratadine dissolving 10mg tablets
-- Loratadine syrup 10mg
-- Alavert tablets 10mg
-- Alavert syrup 10mg
-- Alavert dissolving 10mg tablets
-- Tavist ND 10mg tablets
Consumers who need an antihistamine are urged to shop around - - including online -- for the best-priced loratadine, especially if they need to take an antihistamine often because of seasonal or chronic allergies.
The report notes that most insurers still cover prescription antihistamines, but usually require a sizeable co-pay ($20 or more) and/or restrict their use to those people who have failed to be helped by loratadine. Some health insurers offer coupons for OTC loratadine.
The report recommends that people who self-medicate with loratadine should consult a doctor to make sure they have allergies if they begin to take the drug regularly. Some people who think they have allergies may have asthma or other health conditions that need to be treated with others medicines.
Also, loratadine and the other newer antihistamines examined in the report generally cause less drowsiness than older nonprescription allergy medicines, but the newer drugs can still cause some drowsiness and/or slowed reaction time.
Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs is a public education and information project. Since December, it has released free consumer-friendly reports on seven widely-used categories of prescription drugs. The project is designed to help patients, with their doctors, find effective and affordable medicines. The reports are available at www.CRBestBuyDrugs.org. Grants from the Engelberg Foundation, a private philanthropy, and the National Library of Medicine, support the project.
Best Buy Drugs also is reaching out to low-income Americans, seniors and other who would benefit from information on prescription drug effectiveness and pricing. Initiatives have been launched in Atlanta and Sacramento to put Best Buy Drugs print reports and materials directly into consumers’ hands, and to test ways to reach out to folks in need of lower-cost medications.
The project combines evidence-based research on the comparative effectiveness and safety of prescription drugs with comprehensive nationwide data on drug prices. The information on drug effectiveness is derived from the Drug Effectiveness Review Project (DERP), a 12-state initiative. Price information is based on average retail prices paid in cash by consumers at the pharmacy. Every drug report is peer-reviewed by medical experts in the particular drug category.
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