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In the midst of the worst allergy seasons in years, sufferers seeking relief from itchy eyes, scratchy throats, and stuffy noses are reaching in overwhelming numbers for the antihistamine Zyrtec. Pharmacists said they barely can keep up with the demand for Zyrtec, approved for over-the-counter use in December. The increased accessibility of Zyrtec comes at a time when pollen is expected to reach record levels.
To meet the needs of the increasing number of Americans suffering from allergies, pharmaceutical companies have rolled out a number of over-the-counter antihistamines in recent years. The approval of prescription drugs for over-the-counter use is a relatively new push, and drug regulators have recognized that the risks associated with allergy medications are low compared to the overall benefit, according to a former associate commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration, Peter Pitts.
Allergy medicines are considered relatively safe for use without a prescription, but some patients may simply be treating symptoms of more serious conditions, experts say. Also, consumers must pay more for over-the-counter medications as compared to the co-payments patients typically pay when insurance companies cover the cost. Despite higher costs, consumers generally support the shift toward over-the-counter allergy medications. The trend toward over-the-counter allergy medicines has also resulted in an increasingly complex relationship between doctors and insurers.

In the case of Zyrtec, the patent for the prescription formula was set to expire when the FDA approved it for over-the-counter use in 2007.
The proceeds from selling off its consumer products business allowed Pfizer to repurchase shares and invest in other business areas, such as biotechnology. Company officials declined to provide sales figures for Zyrtec alone, but in the first quarter of 2008, sales for the company's consumer products business were $842 million, up from $728 million in the fourth quarter of 2007.
ARE LAMISIL TABLETS OVER THE COUNTERunsolved mysteries list of cases Versicolor- no prior prescription drugs online. The allergy drug is one of a number recently approved for use without a prescription, and while this trend toward over-the-counter use may be a boon to allergy suffers in search of a quick fix, some health care experts are questioning the lack of physician oversight, the additional cost to consumers, and the implications for drug manufacturers this trend is having on the industry. New York's pollen count, or the number of pollen spores in the air, so far this year is as much as 30,391, an increase of 3,700 compared to last year. Last year, a generic form of Allegra appeared on the market, and in 2003 the popular drug Claritin became available without a prescription. In the case of Zyrtec, for example, consumers shell out nearly $20, while typical co-payments can be as little as $5.
Beth Corn, recently treated a patient who purchased Zyrtec but found that it did not work for her.

If a drug's patent is set to expire, selling it over the counter is a way of avoiding generic competition. At the same time, Pfizer, which owned and manufactured the drug, sold its entire consumer products business to Johnson & Johnson.
The $16 billion transaction was part of a larger financial strategy for both companies, Mr. Chances of a comment being posted are increased if the comment is polite, accurate, grammatical, and substantive or newsworthy. The Sun does not accept comments referring to individuals by only their first names or by nicknames and in the case of most public officials requires, on first reference, a title, such as President Obama or Secretary Clinton.
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