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Antihistamine Drugs: Summary of Recommendations
Seven newer or "second generation" antihistamine medications that are widely used to relieve the symptoms of hay fever (a type of allergic rhinitis), hives (urticaria), and other allergies. Studies have found these drugs to be equally effective and generally safe, but they can be misused.

Some people who take allergy medicines do not have allergies, so you should see your doctor for a diagnosis before taking antihistamines on a regular basis.

The newer antihistamines cause less drowsiness than the older ones, which include nonprescription drugs such as Benadryl Allergy, Chlor-Trimeton Allergy, and Dimetapp Allergy. But the newer drugs are no more effective than the older ones at relieving symptoms.

The monthly retail cost for the newer medicines varies from about $8 to more than $200, so price might be an important factor in your choice. This report shows how you could save hundreds of dollars a year or more if you currently take an expensive brand-name antihistamine. Taking dosing convenience, cost, and effectiveness and safety into account, we have selected the following as Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs:
  • generic cetirizine 10 mg tablets
  • generic loratadine 10 mg tablets
  • generic loratadine dissolving 10 mg tablets
  • Loratadine liquid 10 mg
  • Alavert dissolving 10 mg tablets
All are low-cost generics available without a prescription in pharmacies and other stores that sell medications. They have been shown to effectively relieve symptoms of hay fever, hives, and other allergies. Cetirizine is also available over-the-counter in soft gel capsule and liquid formulations for people who need those. You should also be aware that some people may respond well to one antihistamine while getting no benefi t from another. So if our Best Buy picks do not work for you, then try one of the other antihistamines.

Your insurance might not fully cover antihistamines or might charge you a higher than usual co-payment. Check with your insurer or health-plan administrator about its policy on antihistamines.

Antihistamine Cost Comparison
Note: If the price box contains a , that indicates the dose of that drug may be available for a low monthly cost through programs offered by large chain stores. For example, Kroger, Sam's Club, Target, and Walmart offer a month's supply of selected generic drugs for $4 or a three-month supply for $10. Other chain stores, such as Costco, CVS, Kmart, and Walgreens, offer similar programs. Some programs have restrictions or membership fees, so check the details carefully for restrictions and to make sure your drug is covered.


Generic Name and Dose Brand Name1 Drug is a Generic?2 Drug is OTC?3 Usual Adult Dose4 Average Monthly Cost5
  Azelastine nasal spray/pump 137 mcg Azelastine Yes No Two sprays per nostril, twice daily $100
  Azelastine nasal spray/pump 137 mcg Astelin No No Two sprays per nostril, twice daily $203
  Azelastine nasal spray/pump 205.5 mcg Astepro No No Two sprays per nostril, twice daily $180
  Cetirizine tablet 10 mg Zyrtec No Yes One $19
Cetirizine tablet 10 mg Generic Yes Yes One $11
  Cetirizine liqui-gel capsule 10 mg Zyrtec No Yes One $23
  Desloratadine dissolving tablet 2.5 mg Clarinex Reditabs No No One $237
  Desloratadine dissolving tablet 5 mg Clarinex Reditabs No No One $239
  Desloratadine tablet 5 mg Clarinex No No One $201
  Desloratadine tablet 5 mg Generic Yes No One $97
  Desloratadine liquid 2.5 mg/5 mL Clarinex No No 2.5 mg per day $117
  Fexofenadine tablet 60 mg Allegra No Yes Two $56
  Fexofenadine tablet 180 mg Allegra No Yes One $24
  Fexofenadine tablet 60 mg Generic Yes Yes Two $36
  Fexofenadine tablet 180 mg Generic Yes Yes One $18
  Fexofenadine dissolving tablet 30 mg Allegra ODT No No Two $128
  Fexofenadine liquid 30 mg/5 mL Allegra No Yes 30 mg twice per day $14
  Levocetirizine tablet 5 mg Xyzal No No One $119
  Levocetirizine liquid 2.5 mg/5 mL Xyzal No No 5 mg per day $116
  Levocetirizine tablet 5 mg Generic Yes No One $59
  Levocetirizine liquid 2.5 mg/5 mL Generic Yes No 5 mg per day $87
Loratadine dissolving tablet 10 mg Alavert BG Yes One $12
  Loratadine dissolving tablet 10 mg Claritin Reditabs No Yes One $25
Loratadine dissolving tablet 10 mg Generic Yes Yes One $13
  Loratadine tablet 10 mg Claritin No Yes One $22
Loratadine tablet 10 mg Generic Yes Yes One $8
  Loratadine liqui-gel capsules 10 mg Claritin No Yes One $26
  Loratadine liquid 1 mg/5 mL Claritin No Yes 5 mg per day $15
Loratadine liquid 1 mg/5 mL Generic Yes Yes 5 mg per day $8
  Olopatadine nasal spray Patanase No No Two sprays per nostril, twice daily $153
1. "Generic" indicates that the drug is sold as a generic.

2. "Yes" means it is a generic, sold under the chemical or scientific name. "BG" means it is a branded generic, which is a generic copy of an original drug given a special name by its manufacturer. In this table, for example, Alavert is a branded generic. "No" means it is a brand-name drug.

3. OTC stands for over-the-counter; "yes" means it is a nonprescription OTC drug.

4. Frequency of use reflects recommendations on the package insert; some products can be used more or less frequently.

5. For drugs available by prescription only, monthly costs reflect nationwide retail average prices for February 2013, rounded to the nearest dollar. Data is provided by Source Healthcare Analytics, Inc., which is not involved in our analysis or recommendations. For drugs available OTC, prices were obtained by Consumer Reports secret shoppers from five major chain pharmacies (CVS, Rite Aid, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart) and local supermarkets across the U.S. in January 2013, and in some cases, prices were obtained by Consumer Reports in June 2013 at the online sites of those chain pharmacies. The prices from the various stores were averaged to yield per pill prices, which were then converted into a monthly price based on the maximum recommended number of pills per day.