The allergy medication Allegra is now being sold over the counter in local drug stores. It follows Claritin and Zyrtec as the latest drug formerly known as a prescription to go over the counter.
That may mean less hassle for allergy sufferers, some of whom will not have to go to their doctors for a prescription when the pollen starts flying this spring. But over-the-counter status is usually not so good for drug companies, according to Dave Wendland, with the health-care data company Hamacher Resource Group.
“Price point at retail is truly dictated by what else is available in that category,” Wendland said. “So, yes they’ll be more access points, but it’ll take more users of that product to generate the same revenue.”
He said though more people are able to buy over-the-counter drugs, increased sales volume does not make up for how much the price is lowered to compete with other brand-name and generic drugs. Additional advertising costs cut into profits more.
“Part of it is dictated by competition,” Wendland said. “Now they have to promote that item at a consumer level, rather than making physicians aware of it so they can write prescriptions for that product.”
Wendland said some people who used to take Allegra may switch to another prescription drug if their co-pay is cheaper than the over-the counter price, cutting further into sales. But he is seeing insurance companies begin to cover over-the-counter drug regimens in their plans, which might decrease that possibility.
Allegra hit store shelves this month, and is retailing at a CVS in Center City for $30 for 45 pills.
Last month, the out-of-pocket cost for the prescription version was $106 for 30 pills.