Fexofenadine recently received a green light and soon will be available over the counter without a prescription. Until now, fexofenadine was a prescription-only medication. The Government recently announced the reclassification of fexofenadine 120mg, which will be available as General sale Medication (GSL), sold as branded products – Allevia 120mg tablets.
Summary of the post:
- What is fexofenadine?
- Fexofenadine over the counter – the first GSL product
- Can anyone take fexofenadine over the counter?
- How much fexofenadine (Allevia) cost over the counter?
- Fexofenadine: availability on prescription
- Other ways of getting fexofenadine ‘over the counter’
What is fexofenadine?
Fexofenadine belongs to a group of drugs called antihistamines. Fexofenadine is a ‘newer generation antihistamine’, which means it is less likely to cause sedation than ‘first-generation’ antihistamines, which, usually cause drowsiness and sedation.
First-generation antihistamines can also be used to help manage allergies. Perhaps more commonly, they are used as temporary relief of sleeping problem (Read more: Best over the counter sleeping pills), as anti-sickness tablets, and to manage symptoms of colds.
Fexofenadine over the counter – the first GSL product
Fexofenadine over the counter will be available as a branded product – Allevia 120mg tablets (each tablet contain 120mg of fexofenadine hydrochloride). Allevia tablets will be licensed as General Sale Item (GSL), which means it will be available over the counter in shops and supermarkets and not only in pharmacies.
Allevia tablets will be licensed to relieve symptoms associated with seasonal allergic rhinitis (hayfever) in adults and children aged 12 years and over (Gov.UK, 2020).
Seasonal allergic rhinitis is characterized by allergic symptoms present seasonally at the same time in the year in response to allergens such as flower, grass or tree pollen.
Can anyone take fexofenadine over the counter?
The decision to make fexofenadine available without a prescription is based on the safety profile of this drug. When taken correctly, fexofenadine is unlikely to cause harmful side effects or interact with other medicines.
Taking Allevia tablets with other medicines
People who take indigestion remedies, which contain aluminium or magnesium should leave 2 hours between taking Allevia tablets.
When to speak to a pharmacist or a doctor before taking Allevia tablets?
An older people who have liver or kidneys problems or individuals who have a history of heart disease should speak to their doctor or a pharmacist before taking fexofenadine over the counter.
Can pregnant women take fexofenadine?
Pregnant or breastfeeding women who want to take Allevia tables should speak to their GP before taking this medicine. Most manufactures of other antihistamines available in pharmacies and shops advice to avoid taking antihistamines during pregnancy.
Regarding the use of fexofenadine in the pregnancy, there were only 13 serious cases reported in the last 20 tears.
How much fexofenadine (Allevia) cost over the counter?
Pricing details for Allevia 120mg are not known yet. Once Allevia reaches the market, I will update this post accordingly.
Is fexofenadine better than other over the counter antihistamines?
Review of clinical trials, which compared fexofenadine to other antihistamines concluded that (Huang et al, 2019):
- Fexofenadine has a ‘positive’ antihistamine effect
- Fexofenadine is no worse than other second-generation antihistamines
- Fexofenadine has more favourable safety profile compared to first-generation antihistamines
Fexofenadine: availability on prescription
Fexofenadine which is available on prescription exists in three different strengths. Fexofenadine is known as generic product ‘fexofenadine’ and branded as Telfast.
Prescription-only options for fexofenadine include:
- Telfast 30mg tablets (contain 30mg fexofenadine hydrochloride), licensed for children aged 6 to 11 (30mg taken twice a day).
- fexofenadine hydrochloride 120g tablets (generic and branded as Telfast)
- fexofenadine hydrochloride 180mg (generic and branded as Telfast): adult dose
Other ways of getting fexofenadine ‘over the counter’
Until now, one could get fexofenadine only on prescription issued by a GP (NHS prescription) or privately doctor (private prescription). Many online pharmacies and online doctor sell fexofenadine as part of private service. Patients need to complete a health questionnaire, which is then reviewed by a doctor who issues a private prescription. The cost of a drug and the cost of a private prescription is usually included in the service.
Antihistamines – other options over the counter
Customers who seek for over the counter antihistamines have an excellent choice of medicines. Over the counter antihistamines can broadly be divided into second-generation, non-drowsy antihistamine tablets (most likely will not cause drowsiness ) and first-generation antihistamines, classified as a drowsy antihistamine. First-generation of antihistamines are commonly used as over the counter sleeping pills, due to sedation they cause.
Customers can also buy hayfever nasal sprays (steroid and non-steroid nasal sprays), which can be used alongside antihistamine tablets.
Children and adults can also use sodium cromoglicate eye drops to manage hayfever symptoms.
Second-generation of antihistamine (non-drowsy)
Non-drowsy antihistamines available over the counter include:
Both loratadine and cetirizine can be bought from shops and in pharmacies in larger pack sizes.
First-generation drowsy antihistamines
Drowsy antihistamines, such as chlorphenamine (Piriton), promethazine and diphenhydramine are pharmacy-only medicines.
Over the counter drowsy-antihistamines can be used to manage allergies, and more commonly used as products to help temporarily with sleep disturbances (over the counter sleeping pills), active ingredients found in ‘cold and flu’ products and anti-sickness tablets.
Fexofenadine over the counter – Conclusion
New fexofenadine over the counter brings a broader choice to patients who seek relief from seasonal allergies. Fexofenadine has a good safety profile and interacts with a small number of other drugs, making it a good choice as a non-drowsy antihistamine.
Gov.UK (2020). Public Assessment Report of the Reclassification of Allevia 120mg Tablets. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/public-assessment-report-of-the-reclassification-of-allevia-120mg-tablets Accessed on 27/12/2020
Huang, Cz., Jiang, Zh., Wang, J. et al. Antihistamine effects and safety of fexofenadine: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BMC Pharmacol Toxicol 20, 72 (2019). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1186/s40360-019-0363-1