NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Claritin Over The Counter Sales

December 4, 2002

The popular allergy medicine Claritin will be available over the counter by mid-December -- saving the government, employers and health insurers at least $1 billion a year because nonprescription drugs aren't covered by insurance. Consumers in general, however, will save even more because the price will drop by 75 percent or more.

Those whose insurance has paid for the medicine will pay more out of pocket, but it will be more affordable for the millions of people without insurance coverage.

  • A month's supply now costs between $80 and $95 by prescription, but is expected to drop to $17 to $20, about the same or slightly more than the typical drug co-payment.
  • When generic versions of Claritin debut next year, they will also sell without a prescription.
  • Claritin accounts for more than half of the U.S. market for prescription non-sedating antihistamines, and almost a third of drug maker Schering-Plough's total revenues.
  • But worldwide Claritin sales of $3.2 billion last year will drop to a projected $400 million when it sells over the counter.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) forced Schering-Plough to take Claritin off the prescription-only list four years after insurers petitioned the FDA to force the drug company to sell it without a prescription.
  • Claritin is already sold over the counter in Canada.

Wellpoint, the large California insurer that prompted the Food and Drug Administration's evaluation of Claritin, has also asked the agency to make Clarinex, Schering-Plough's newest allergy drug, available over the counter.

Source: Melody Petersen, "Claritin to Sell Over the Counter," New York Times, November 28, 2002; Theresa Agovino (Associated Press), "FDA Order Claritin Sold Over the Counter," Dallas Morning News, November 28, 2002.


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