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Allegra Found to Be Head and Noses Above the Rest


WebMD Health News

Dec. 13, 1999 (Minneapolis) -- Allegra, the newest addition to a long list of drugs to treat those nasty effects of seasonal allergies, has received rave reviews from European researchers. So what puts this medication head and noses above the rest? According to the co-author of study, Martin Stern, BMBCh, FRCP, old sedating allergy medications are out of date and shouldn't be used anymore. Instead, he tells WebMD, "Patients should demand a nonsedating antihistamine. I think [Allegra] is unparalleled at this stage of development."

Researchers in the United Kingdom compared the safety and effectiveness of Allegra (fexofenadine) with Zyrtec (cetirizine), another popular allergy medication, and a placebo, or sugar pill. More than 700 patients aged 12-65 were included in the study. The findings were published in the November issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Researchers were particularly interested in learning how well the antihistamines controlled the symptoms of sneezing, runny nose, itchy throat, watery, red eyes, and nasal congestion.

They found that once-daily doses of 120 mg or 180 mg of Allegra were superior to placebo in reducing total symptoms. In addition, the single dose was effective in relieving symptoms for the entire 24-hour period. They also found that Allegra and Zyrtec were comparable in relieving the symptoms of seasonal allergies. Whereas drowsiness was a side effect of Zyrtec, no major side effects were noted with Allegra. Patients also experienced less fatigue, nausea, and throat irritations with Allegra.

However, in the U.S., Allegra is only available in 60 mg capsules taken twice a day and not in the 120 mg or 180 mg once-daily capsules. WebMD spoke with one U.S. physician who said that when the 24-hour form of Allegra is available in this country, he intends to use the drug more often, particularly for patients who are noncompliant or tend to forget to take their medications.

"Development of an effective and safe drug that does not cause drowsiness is a major breakthrough," Stern says. "The only known value [in medications that cause drowsiness] would be if the patient has an itchy skin condition and needs help sleeping at night," he says. "We have clear evidence that the sedating antihistamines seriously impair driving performance. Even at twice the dose recommended for seasonal [allergy], [Allegra] was not sedating."

John Haugen, MD, a family practitioner at HealthSystem Minnesota, tells WebMD "The most important implications for the patient is that there's an alternative, nonsedating antihistamine [to others on the market]."

However, cost issues may hinder patients from getting the drug, according to James A. Wille, MD, an allergist with Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines. "Patients will now have another good treatment option that is safe and effective and not likely to interfere with their day-to-day life. But it depends on whether or not it is competitively priced and if managed care [pharmacies] will want to pay for it and use it as a preferred product."

Stern says, "I believe [Allegra] is better than any other antihistamine I've seen."

Vital Information:

  • The allergy medicine Allegra is an effective antihistamine, but does not cause drowsiness as other medications do and has no major side effects.
  • A single dose of Allegra can relieve allergy symptoms for a 24-hour period, but this formulation is not yet available in the U.S.
  • Cost may be an issue for patients who want to take the drug, depending on how competitive the price is and whether insurance companies want to pay for it.

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