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Claritin to Be Sold Without Prescription

Medically Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD
From the WebMD Archives

March 8, 2002 -- The popular allergy drug Claritin may soon be available without a prescription.

Schering-Plough, the drug's manufacturer, this April will ask an FDA advisory board to approve the plan. Full FDA approval is expected by the end of November 2002.

Over-the-counter drugs usually cost about one-fifth less than prescription drugs. However, most insurance plans do not reimburse for non-prescription medicines.

In an unusual move, the FDA last year considered whether three prescription allergy drugs -- Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec -- should be sold over-the-counter. The drugs are generally considered safer, longer lasting, and more effective than allergy drugs now available without prescription.

The drugs' manufacturers objected to this plan. Schering-Plough, however, already has a second prescription drug on the market: Clarinex. At least one insurer says it won't pay for Clarinex if Claritin is sold over-the-counter.

Other firms have said they will bring out generic forms of Claritin when the drug's patent expires later this year. Schering-Plough's bold move to go forward with over-the-counter status for Claritin would block these generic forms of the drug.