Zyrtec's Move to Over the Counter Helps Some, But Not Others

March 24, 2008

Columbus, GA (WTVM)--17- year old Travis Lau is just one of many people here in the Valley who suffer from seasonal allergies.

To deal with his symptoms, he takes several medications, all covered by his aunt's insurance plan.

"With my co-pays, the average month of prescriptions is about $80-90...it would probably be between $300-400 if I didn't have insurance," said Debora Rohly, Lau's aunt.

Until last year, Zyrtec, one of the most popular allergy drugs, was only available by prescription, and most people with insurance had it covered under their plan.

Now, with the FDA's approval to make Zyrtec available over the counter, those people are now paying more.

"Prior to going over the counter, people had co-pays that made it easier to purchase.  Now with medication being over the counter, they have to pay out of pocket 100%," said Dr. Robert Chrzanowski, a specialist at the Allergy Center in Columbus.

At the same time, Zyrtec's move to over the counter helped bring down the cost for the under insured and the un-insured...saving big bucks for the people who need it most.

"It's a double edged sword.  You can keep it as a prescription, but then people without insurance, they got to pay for all this.  So you put it over the counter, and it becomes affordable to some and not to others.  It's a kind of catch 22 there," said Rohly.