Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently legalized over-the-counter (OTC) sales of loratadine, an antihistamine used to treat allergy symptoms, which means that it can now be purchased without prescription even at convenience stores.
Across the nation, there was a major backlash from pharmacists who do not agree with the FDA’s decision. At mClinica, we decided to investigate this further by polling Thai pharmacists on their thoughts.
Vast majority of pharmacists do not approve of loratadine sales OTC and worry about side effects
More than 84% of pharmacists are not in favor of allowing loratadine to be sold OTC. The results did not differ very much between rural and urban pharmacists: 87% of pharmacists from urban areas and 92% of pharmacists from rural areas disagree with OTC sales of the drug.
Further, these findings were consistent across all fields of pharmaceutical practice, with only the exception of the field of academics. Indeed, pharmacists in academia may have a use for loratadine in their research; as such, half of them were in favor of OTC sales of loratadine, and the other half were not.
The results of our poll also clarified why pharmacists disapprove of OTC sales of loratadine. The top three reasons why pharmacists disapprove of the OTC sales of the drug are:
- Adverse drug reactions,
- Safety concerns about the drug itself, and
- Abuse and/or improper use of the drug.
Many of the pharmacists in our poll also indicated that loratadine was “not 100% safe” and that it isn’t easy to use correctly, which highlights the importance of restricting access to the drug instead of encouraging its distribution.
Selling powerful drugs at convenience stores jeopardizes patient safety
Pharmacists in our poll overwhelmingly expressed their concerns about the FDA’s decision. By making loratadine effortless to buy, some pharmacists warn that anyone with a runny nose will go purchase the drug even though it has strong side effects and should not be used without first consulting a medical professional. Many pharmacists in our poll reported that the drug needs to be labeled to warn consumers about the dangers of overusing the drug and its many possible side effects.
Some pharmacists specified that the drug is harmful to pregnant women in their first trimester and that older patients and patients with hepatitis or kidney problems would need adjusted doses of loratadine.
Many pharmacists fear that allowing this drug to be sold OTC could lead to other, more dangerous drugs being sold at convenience stores – a move that could jeopardize patient safety.