Why Are Seasonal Allergy Sufferers Using Over-the-Counter Medication if They Want Prescription Meds?

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Pharmacy shelves are lined with different brands to treat seasonal allergies, and most of the time, patients will pick one up. But as a new study found, allergy sufferers actually want prescription medication.

Pharmacy shelves are lined with different brands to treat seasonal allergies, and most of the time, patients will pick one up. But as a new study found, allergy sufferers actually want prescription medication.

The researchers interviewed 501 children (ages 12 to 17) and 500 adults with allergic rhinitis, or hay fever. Overall, most of the participants had moderate (45%) to severe (38%) symptoms in the spring and moderate (60%) to severe (21%) symptoms in the fall. Eli Meltzer, MD, an allergist, will expand on the study’s findings at the 2015 American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting (ACAAI 2015) in San Antonio, Texas.

“Even though the majority of adults and children we surveyed said they took OTC oral medications for allergies, only one-third were very or extremely satisfied with the treatment,” Meltzer said about the 62% of patients typically taking OTC medicine in a news release. However, 50% of the patients taking prescription medication were very or extremely satisfied. This indicates that patients are more satisfied when they obtain a prescription from an allergist, yet most don’t get it.

This presents an obvious question: if patients are more satisfied with prescribed allergy treatment, why do most of them steer towards OTC options? “Health plans tends to encourage patients to seek OTC medications first, which can delay allergist involvement,” Meltzer pinpointed one of the reasons.

The results revealed that children were significantly more likely to be treated by an allergist (24%) when compared to adults (14%). Allergy shots were also more common in children (14%) than in adults (10%).

“The combination of less frequent care by allergists and more frequent use of OTC medications has no translated into patient satisfaction,” explained Bryan Martin, DO, an allergist involved in the research.

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