FDA Attempts to Force Drugs Over the Counter

By: Jarrod Aldom
By: Jarrod Aldom

As we get deeper into summer, we also get deeper into allergy season. And that means more of us will be looking for our allergy medicine. But WHSV found out you can expect higher prices when you go to refill it.

When Claritin first went over the counter early this year, allergy sufferers thought it was a good deal. But they never expected to be paying a dollar a pill for something they used to get for 10 dollars a bottle. And it's had a trickle down effect on how insurance companies charge for other allergy medications.

"As far as Allegra goes, they'll still pay for Allegra, but what I've seen them do is they'll have tiered co-pays," says Jathan Payne, a pharmacist at Williamson-Hughes. "So instead of paying $10 for the Allegra, they may pay $40 now or $35 depending on their insurance."

That means people are paying more for the prescription drugs than the over the counter Claritin, thanks to insurance companies, which would save millions of dollars.

"In my opinion, they're forcing them to take the over the counter Claritin because it's no money out of their pocket," says Payne. "And there's a huge amount of people on prescription antihistamines, so the insurance companies can save money in that respect."

Payne says it's the drug companies that lose out.

"The drug companies, if they get forced over the counter, they're not getting the same prices because they're charging 80 for a 30 pill prescription, but when it goes over the counter it's $30 or less," explains Payne.

Payne believes if the FDA gets it's way, the consumer will ultimately benefit because of price wars between the brands. But there's no guarantee the FDA will be able to do it. It would be the first time they've successfully forced a drug over the counter.

Payne says another benefit of bringing prescription medicine over the counter is that it's much safer than what's currently available. The FDA would not comment on how soon the switch might take place.

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