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Contact: Kelli Hagen

American Association for Respiratory Care Says Switching Allergy Drugs to Over the Counter Threatens Patient Safety

Dallas, TX (May 16, 2001) -- The American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) stands in favor of patient safety in response to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) recommendation to switch three key allergy drugs (Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec) to over-the-counter status. The panel acted in response to a petition filed by an insurance company, WellPoint Health Network, Inc.

According to AARC Executive Director Sam Giordano, this move would essentially require consumers to become medical experts. "Taking medications into the human body is a serious issue and finding the correct dosage and drug combinations should not be taken lightly," Giordano said. "When a physician or respiratory therapist examines an allergy patient, they take a detailed medical history and even conduct diagnostic tests when necessary," he explained. "Based upon the allergens involved and the patient's other medical issues, a treatment strategy is designed specifically for that person."

In developing a treatment strategy, Giordano says medical professionals must give crucial consideration to factors such as:

  • medical history/other medical conditions
  • types of allergens
  • possible drug interactions
  • numerous viable treatment strategies

"Since when should American citizens be responsible for self diagnosing and self medicating a potentially serious health issue like allergies? Too many factors must be considered for effective care to occur," he explained, "It is a grave mistake to put that kind of burden on consumers."

Giordano explained that an allergy treatment plan is more than just taking an antihistamine when you feel a sneeze coming on. He said an effective plan is one that allows the patient to use as little medication as possible to obtain the best achievable results with minimal or no side effects.

"The insurance company that initiated this course of action was clearly motivated by the almighty dollar, not what is best for the consumers it supposedly serves," Giordano said. "The AARC has no financial stake in this issue. Our motive is based purely out of concern that consumers have access to affordable, quality healthcare when they need it," he said. "Too many people are already forced to 'play doctor' because they cannot afford physicians when they need them," he explained. "If the FDA further encourages this practice, Americans could wind up in much worse condition for it."