Today I answer a popular question, which is asked in the pharmacy by customers: Can you buy fexofenadine over the counter? Until now, fexofenadine was supplied against a prescription produced by a doctor or another qualified prescriber. Recently fexofenadine was reclassified and became available over the counter from pharmacies and other outlets as Allevia tablets (120mg fexofenadine).
What is fexofenadine?
Fexofenadine is an antihistamine, which can be used to manage symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis. Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hayfever is characterised by symptoms of sneezing, itchiness and runny nose. These symptoms happen in response to allergens such as flower, grass and tree pollen.
Fexofenadine is classified as a second-generation antihistamine. Second-generation antihistamines are less likely to cross the blood-brain barrier and cause sleepiness. In the UK first-generation antihistamines are mainly used as sleeping aid products, whereas second-generation antihistamines as medicines to manage hayfever symptoms.
Fexofenadine starts to work rapidly, usually within one hour of taking it. Fexofenadine has a long duration of action, which means it works for 24 hours with a single dose. Fexofenadine is effective antihistamine. It controls the main symptoms of hayfever including an itchy and runny nose, sneezing, itchy throat, watery and red eyes. A dose of 120mg (over the counter dose) has shown to be as effective as loratadine 10mg and cetirizine 10mg (other over the counter antihistamines). When used with pseudoephedrine, a decongestant available from pharmacies, fexofenadine was found to produce greater improvements in quality of life than loratadine (Simpson & Jarvis, 2000).
Fexofenadine over the counter: all facts you must know
Fexofenadine is sold over the counter from pharmacies and supermarkets as a branded product called Allevia tablets. Each Allevia tablet contains 120mg of fexofenadine.
Allevia tablets: Legal classification
Allevia tablets are classified as General Sale List (GSL) medicine. In simple terms, GSL medicines can be sold in any retail outlet, which means that Allevia may be sold from pharmacies and supermarkets.
Can you buy fexofenadine over the counter (higher strength)?
Fexofenadine 180mg is a prescription-only medication. This is a higher strength of fexofenadine, which needs to be prescribed by a doctor.
Additionally, a lower dose of fexofenadine exist. Telfast brand of fexofenadine is licensed for children 6-11 years of age. Each Telfast tablet contains 30mg of fexofenadine.
Who can use fexofenadine over the counter?
Over the counter Allevia tablets are licensed for adults and children over 12 years of age. The recommended dose for children and adults over 12 years of age is one tablet (120mg) daily, taken before a meal.
What pack size of fexofenadine can you buy over the counter?
Over the counter Allevia tablets are available in three different pack-sizes of 7, 15 and 30 tablets.
How much does Allevia (fexofenadine) cost?
Prices of Allevia tablets will vary between pharmacies, however, customers may be expected to pay over £8 for a box of 30 tablets and just under £5 for a box of 15 Allevia tablets.
Can anyone take Allevia tablets?
A small number of patients should consult their doctor before using Allevia tablets:
- Patient with current or history of cardiovascular disease
- Patients with renal (kidney) or hepatic (liver) impairment
- Elderly patients
Can you use over the counter fexofenadine in pregnancy or when breastfeeding?
Allevia 120mg tablets can be used in pregnancy and when breastfeeding under by a recommendation o a doctor.
Allevia (fexofenadine): common side effects
Product information leaflet advice on the possibility of the following common side effect (eMC, 2022):
Availability of other antihistamines over the counter
Customers have a good choice of over the counter antihistamines. A common drowsy antihistamine which is sold in pharmacies is chlorphenamine (brand name: Piriton). Non-drowsy antihistamines include loratadine and cetirizine, both available as ‘generic’, cheap pharmacy and supermarket brands and other (more expensive) brands.
Can you buy fexofenadine over the counter? Conclusion
The availability of fexofenadine over the counter gives a greater choice to the public in the management of hayfever symptoms. With a good safety profile and equal effectiveness as other over the counter antihistamines, fexofenadine may be a choice of treatment to consider in the coming hayfever season.
eMC (2022). SmPC: Allevia 120mg tablets. Available at: https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/product/13208 Accessed on 02/03/2022
Simpson K, Jarvis B. Fexofenadine: a review of its use in the management of seasonal allergic rhinitis and chronic idiopathic urticaria. Drugs. 2000 Feb;59(2):301-21. doi: 10.2165/00003495-200059020-00020. Erratum in: Drugs 2000 May;59(5):1089. PMID: 10730552. Available at: https://doi.org/10.2165/00003495-200059020-00020