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Over-the Counter Allergy Medication Found to Be As Effective As Prescription Drug

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A study financed by Singulair manufacturer Merck & Co., and published in the February issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, may have backfired.

In a comparison study, Singulair, the widely prescribed asthma and allergy drug, proved to be no more effective for treating hay fever symptoms than the much cheaper over-the-counter (OTC) decongestant Sudafed.

Sudafed 24 Hour (pseudoephedrine) and Singulair were found to be equally effective for treating sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, and nose and throat itchiness by researchers at the University of Chicago, who studied 58 hay fever sufferers.

The 28 subjects who took the OTC Sudafed 24-Hour (240-mg dosage of pseudoephedrine) also experienced no more sleep problems or other side effects than people who took prescription Singulair (10-mg montelukast). The team was surprised to find no more restlessness and insomnia among the Sudafed users.

Study author, Dr. Robert M. Naclerio, theorizes that the lack of sleep problems in the Sudafed group may have been due to the fact that the 24-hour version of the medicaation was taken in the morning and because the relief of hay fever symptoms would probably have a positive effect on sleep.

The only marked difference in the two groups was one of cost. The time-release 240-mg capsules of pseudoephedrine cost only about 80 cents a day on line, while the 10-mg Singulair cost nearly $3 per dose.

The original hypothesis was that montelukast would have additional benefits and pseudoephedrine would interfere with sleep. That, however, proved to be incorrect as “we found that for the treatment of allergic rhinitis, these drugs were virtually identical,” stated Dr. Fuad M. Baroody.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that the over-the-counter pseudoephedrine was slightly more effective for reducing nasal congestion than Singulair.

For some allergy specialists, the study shows that an OTC drug can be just as effective as a prescription medication for many who suffer from seasonal allergies and especially those who have mild, intermittent symptoms.

(Sources: WebMDMedical News 2.21.06; Mucha, S.M. Archives of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, February 2006; vol 132: pp 164-172)

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