Wellpoint scores victory in fight to label allergy drugs OTC

THOUSAND OAKS, CA: Wellpoint Health Services last week gained

substantial ground in its aggressive media relations campaign urging the

FDA to change the status of three popular allergy medications from

prescription to over-the-counter (OTC).

Wellpoint retains Weber Shandwick Worldwide agency Powell Tate.

The payoff came when the majority of members of an FDA advisory panel

agreed that Claritin (Schering-Plough), Allegra (Aventis

Pharmaceuticals) and Zyrtec (Pfizer) are safe to use without a

prescription. All three pharmaceuticals oppose the move.

Much of the media coverage has pointed to financial motives for both

sides in the debate. Drug companies stand to lose from OTC pricing,

while insurers could save money if consumers no longer need a

prescription or a doctor visit to use the medication.

Edelman has helped Claritin defend its position, and both Aventis and

Schering-Plough issued press releases disagreeing with the advisory

panel ruling.The final ruling now rests with the FDA, and it is not

known when the decision will be made.

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