Current Allergy and Asthma Reports

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 223-230

First online:

The cost of treating allergic rhinitis

  • David A. StempelAffiliated withVirginia Mason Clinic, Virginia Mason Medical Center
  • , Roger WoolfAffiliated withVirginia Mason Clinic, Virginia Mason Medical Center

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Allergic rhinitis is a high-cost, high-prevalence disease. In the year 2000, over $6 billion was spent on prescription medications to treat this illness. Although it is not associated with severe morbidity and mortality, allergic rhinitis has a major effect on the quality of life of the more than 50 million Americans with this illness. Intranasal corticosteroids (INCS) and nonsedating antihistamines (NSAH) are the most common prescription medications for this disease. INCS are recognized as the most effective treatment regimen for chronic symptoms. NSAH are perceived as important in the treatment of patients with mild disease, or as add-on therapy to INCS. When the literature is reviewed, the INCS produce the greatest decrease in total nasal symptom scores, the largest effect size, when compared with NSAH. Both classes of medications produce similar effects on concurrent allergic conjunctivitis. Further recent studies indicate that the INCS are also superior when used on an as-needed basis, and that there is little clinical benefit from the addition of loratadine to intranasal fluticasone. INCS have lower average wholesale prices as a class than the NSAH. Since the INCS are the dominant medication in efficacy studies and cost less, cost-effectiveness studies always favor intranasal corticosteroids.