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Back To Vidyya Over-The-Counter Benadryl More Effective Than Prescription Drugs For Allergy Relief

Two Studies Say Benadryl Is Better

Allergy sufferers may soon be asking "why am I paying more for less?" when it comes to relieving allergies. According to results of two recent studies, the leading over-the-counter (OTC) branded antihistamine has demonstrated significant superior efficacy over the leading prescription antihistamine. The two studies, known as "Cedar Fever" and "Ragweed" were conducted in areas of the United States where abundant cedar trees and ragweed can cause severe hay fever. Both studies demonstrated that Benadryl (diphenhydramine) was at least 54 percent more effective than Claritin (loratadine) in treating seasonal allergic rhinitis.

The multi-center, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies conducted with 870 patients showed an overall greater reduction in nasal signs and symptoms, in patients given Benadryl than those given Claritin. The studies focused on patients suffering from signs and symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis. Study participants were randomized to either Benadryl, Claritin or placebo. Patients were evaluated by the investigators after three and seven days of treatment and kept daily diaries to measure their daily symptoms such as: nasal discharge/runny nose, sneezing, congestion/stuffiness and nasal itching. In both studies, Benadryl performed statistically significantly better than both Claritin and placebo. Benadryl's proven superiority in relieving total nasal symptoms has particular relevance to allergy sufferers according to a recent survey conducted by Millward Brown Associates, finding the most frequently suffered symptoms among allergy suffers to be sneezing and nasal discharge (46% and 43% respectively).

The most common adverse events experienced by study participants taking Benadryl in both groups were drowsiness (somnolence) and fatigue (asthenia). These side effects in both studies were typically mild or moderate.

"These findings not only reinforce the many benefits of OTC antihistamines like Benadryl," said Todd Adkins, MD, Mississippi Asthma and Allergy Clinic and investigator of the Ragweed study, "but they dispel the common misperception that prescription drugs are overall superior to OTC medications."

Approximately 40 million Americans suffer from allergic rhinitis. Antihistamines, both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription, are the most common medications used in the treatment of allergies. A vast majority of consumers rely upon safe and effective OTC's for relief of their allergy symptoms. In fact, a recent independent poll by Zogby International found that Benadryl was the preferred OTC choice for allergy relief for nearly one-third (33.1%) of Americans who suffer from allergies. The poll was conducted for the Reuters/Zogby Files Online Report, a public opinion research page distributed daily on Yahoo! as part of its daily news service.

"These studies are good news for consumers," said Dr. David O. Thueson, author of Thueson's Guide To Over-The-Counter Drugs. Dr. Thueson earned his Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of Utah College of Medicine and is a well-known advocate of consumer self-care education. "Benadryl has been a product used safely and trusted by millions of families for half a century. And, now knowing that a proven more effective allergy treatment isn't the most expensive option, lets these families feel good about their antihistamine choice." The daily cost of Benadryl ranges from $.43 to $.86 vs. $2.16 for Claritin.

"Based on this data, I would recommend Benadryl for anyone who suffers from moderate to severe allergies," Thueson continued. "Why receive a prescription for an antihistamine that is half as effective, but more than twice the cost?" Benadryl is often the first step in allergy management; although if allergy symptoms persist while taking an antihistamine, patients should consult their physician.

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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