When trying to decide between Claritin and Zyrtec, it's helpful to look at several factors, including cost, specific uses, and possible side effects. Both drugs are available in generic versions, and both have similar uses. However, one of the most significant differences between these products is that Zyrtec may be more likely to cause drowsiness in some people.
An Overview of Claritin Versus Zyrtec
Zyrtec® (cetirizine hydrochloride) is an allergy medication known as a nonsedating antihistamine (an antihistamine that is less likely to cause drowsiness). Claritin® (loratadine) is also a nonsedating antihistamine. Although they are very similar medications, there are some important differences between the two.
Does Insurance Cover Zyrtec or Claritin?
Although Claritin was once a prescription product, it has been switched to a nonprescription status. This means that it is very unlikely to be covered by insurance, although a few companies (and sometimes public assistance programs like Medicaid) still cover Claritin.
Similarly, Zyrtec was also originally a prescription-only product, but was switched to a nonprescription status in 2007 (see Zyrtec OTC).
There is a trend in insurance companies to not cover any nonsedating antihistamines (because you can buy products such as Claritin and Zyrtec without a prescription). However, many insurance companies will cover a prescribed nonsedating antihistamine.
Differences in Generic Products
Both Claritin and Zyrtec are available in generic form. However, Children's Claritin chewable tablets, Claritin Liqui-Gels®, and Claritin 12-Hour RediTabs® do not currently have generic forms available. There are generic products for the Zyrtec children's chewable tablets and children's syrup.
Many of the makers of generic Zyrtec products have given their drugs names other than cetirizine, the usual "generic" name. However, you can easily check if a product contains generic Zyrtec by looking for "cetirizine hydrochloride" in the active ingredients section of the package label.
Zyrtec [package insert]. New York, NY: Pfizer Inc.;2006 May.
Food and Drug Administration, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Electronic orange book: approved drug products with therapeutic equivalence evaluations. FDA Web site. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/cder/ob/. Accessed November 5, 2007.
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