The Claritin Story

Image retrieved from on September 9th, 2013.

Two months before Gleevec hit the media, Stephen S. Hall wrote an article for the New York Times Magazine titled "prescription for Profit" Hall's concerns that led him to write the story were very mundane compared to the life-or-death story of patients with advanced cancer. Hall suffered from the drippy nose and red, itchy eyes of hay fever and other seasonal allergies - hardly a life-threatening problem, yet in its own way a major concern of American medicine, based simply on how many people suffer from these symptoms - an estimated thirty-five million. For years Hall had treated himself with the over-the-counter pill, Chlor-Trimeton, an old standby antihistamine. It worked great for his symptoms, but it also made him very sleepy. When Hall finally complained about this problem to a new allergist he was seeing, the allergist rummaged through his sample supply and handed Hall a weeks worth of claritin, manufactured by Schering-Plough (which incidentally, also makes Chlor-Trimeton). Claritin was an antihistamine like Chlor-Trimeton, but of a new chemical family, which was supposed to be nonsedating. Hall was impressed: "I had seen the ads on TV - who hadn't? I figured I'd give it a try."

Hall continued his tale: "So I went home and tried it. The little white pill was easy to swallow and had to be taken only once a day. There was just one problem: it didn't work. It didn't relieve my runny nose and red-rimmed, gunked-up eyes. When I told my allergist, he didn't seem particularly surprised. Only about 30 to 40% of his patients, he said, found the drug helpful.

Excerpt from page 18 of Hooked by Howard Brody

Claritin, antihistamine, allergies, pharmaceuticals