Nasal spray for allergies may soon be sold in stores
October 10, 1996
Web posted at: 11:30 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Eugenia Halsey
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Scientific advisers to the U.S.
government Thursday recommended approval of the first
over-the-counter nasal spray to prevent allergies, clearing
one more hurdle for people with hay fever to get a new
The news couldn't have come at a more appropriate time for
many allergy sufferers, who are sneezing through clouds of
autumn ragweed pollen. Almost 10 percent of Americans suffer
from hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis.
Andrew Zimbler's symptoms are typical. "I get red, itchy
eyes and a stuffy nose, and sometimes I get a sinus headache
which occasionally gets very bad, and I need to go on
To alleviate their symptoms, many take over-the-counter
medications such as antihistamines or decongestants.
However, such products can only relieve symptoms -- not
Nasalcrom, on the other hand, can actually keep the allergic
reactions from starting in the first place.
"These drugs work by turning off the allergic process. In
other words, they're doing more than just treating symptoms.
These antihistamines and decongestants: The horse is already
out of the barn," said Dr. Peter Creticos, a consultant for
McNeil Consumer Products Company.
The advisory committee has recommended that the Food and Drug
Administration approve Nasalcrom, which has been prescribed
by doctors about 17 million times since it was introduced
more than a decade ago. The drug would be licensed to McNeil
if it is approved for over-the-counter sales.
The FDA panel told the federal agency that the drug is safe
and works for a lot of people, although not everyone. And,
unlike antihistamines available over the counter, it doesn't
cause drowsiness or make it unsafe for patients to drive.
It can also help people with year-round allergies caused by
dust, mold and cats. Patients are supposed to take Nasalcrom
about a week before the allergy season begins, then take it
continuously throughout the season, spraying the product once
in each nostril every four to six hours.
Some allergists are concerned that if people can buy it
without a prescription, they may not give it the extra week
needed for its effects to kick in.
"People are going to wait until they start to have symptoms
and by that time, it's not going to work. They're going to
tell themselves: 'Why bother with this medicine, it's not
going to work,'" said Dr. Harvey Schwartz of Alexandria
Nasalcrom also won't help relieve colds or sinus infections.
Still, the FDA usually follows the advisory panel's
recommendations, and if Nasalcrom is approved, doctors say it
could give millions of allergy sufferers welcome relief.
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