What OTCs do P.Rhs. recommend for allergies?

March 10, 2008

Findings from Drug Topics' exclusive survey of pharmacists' otc recommendations for allergies.

The big news is pharmacists report that patients will need more counseling about Zyrtec now that it is available OTC.

This finding comes from an exclusive Drug Topics survey of a sampling of pharmacists in chain, independent, and other settings. To view the full survey results, go to http://www.drugtopics.com/ and click on Drug Topics Exclusive Survey.

R.Ph.s give OTC Zyrtec the nod

Four out of 10 respondents to Drug Topics' 2007 Allergy Survey said they strongly approve of Zyrtec becoming an OTC product, 47% said they approve the move, 10% stated that they somewhat approve the switch, 1% shook their head in disapproval, and 1% asserted that they strongly disapprove of it.

When asked to indicate reasons behind their approval ratings for Zyrtec OTC, one pharmacist said, "Because Zyrtec gives the patient another option besides Claritin for non-sedating antihistamine." Another respondent said, "Claritin is not strong enough for many people and Zyrtec has less drowsiness than Benadryl or Chlor-Trimeton."

Yet another R.Ph. offered this sentiment, "Claritin had such a strong response and has proven to be safe and effective over the counter. Zyrtec should have a similar side-effect profile as well."

When asked to rate the extent to which they agree that customers will need more counseling about Zyrtec OTC, 20% of respondents said they strongly agree that customers will need more counseling about the product, 45% said they mostly agree, and 26% stated they somewhat agree with the statement. Only 8% disagreed and 1% strongly disagreed that patients will need more counseling about Zyrtec OTC.

When it comes to counseling patients on allergy medications, respondents said they counsel an average of 30 patients a week during allergy season. In terms of time spent on counseling, respondents averaged 3.2 minutes per session.

Seeking words of wisdom

Who gets the dialogue going? Customers aren't bashful about initiating a dialogue with R.Ph.s. Some 81% of pharmacists reported that customers typically initiate the conversation. Pharmacists begin these interactions only 19% of the time.

Pharmacists who live in the Southwest appear to counsel most patients per week during allergy season, while those in the Southeast counsel the least number of patients.

Do patients hang on R.Ph.s. words? Some 37% of respondents mentioned that patients "almost always" follow their advice on OTC allergy products, 58% said patients "frequently" take their words to heart, and 4% reported that patients "sometimes" heed their advice.

Impact of Zyrtec OTC

Four out of 10 respondents revealed that their No. 1 and No. 2 brand recommendations for adult allergy and antihistamine tablets will change with the introduction of Zyrtec OTC. Among these respondents, 62% will make Zyrtec OTC their No. 1 brand recommendation. Thirty-one percent said they expect to make it their No. 2 brand recommendation.

Three out of 10 respondents stated that their leading brand recommendations for adult allergy/antihistamine/nasal decongestant tablets will change in the wake of the introduction of Zyrtec OTC. Among these respondents, 67% will make Zyrtec OTC their highest brand recommendation and 29% will make it their second highest brand recommendation.