Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hacking through the OTC jungle

Heading into cough/allergy/flu/cold season always brings out the folks navigating the aisles for over-the-counter remedies.

I feel bad for the mom who scours the shelves for some magic elixir to help her kid's (and hers) relentless, sleepless nights. She excitedly brings me a bottle of NEW!!!! Pediaminic Just Fer Kidz Cough/Cold Nighttime So Your Child Can Rest Bubblegum Berry Liquid, and asks me what I think. I hate having to break the news that it's just, well ----- Benadryl.
I don't blame people for being totally confused about OTC stuff, and I can't imagine the money that is wasted because people don't know what they are buying, or that the product is no different from ten other products they already have in their medicine cabinet.

NEW Zyrtec Itchy Eye Drops -- "Nothing Works Better!!"
Well, maybe nothing works better, but there's a whole bunch of stuff that works as well, because it's the same drug. That would be Alaway, Zaditor, Claritin Eye, and probably other stuff I haven't seen yet. But people are genuinely baffled that all these things appear on the shelves next to each other as though there is actually a choice to be made between them. Sometimes I think people believe I'm pulling the wool over their eyes. I guess I am in a way, but if I had the power to dictate what was on our OTC shelves about 75% of that stuff would be gone.

My point is if you ask your pharmacist about an OTC product and they say, "Don't waste your money, get this one," don't be surprised, or suspicious. Just because it's on the shelf doesn't mean it's any good. Very seldom does "NEW" mean new. The FDA only approves certain products for OTC use and to see something genuinely new is rare.


Anonymous said...

It's a crying shame, labeling commonly obscures active ingredients. If I was not a pharmacist, I'd be confused by what the new Benadryl was or what it was, and what it actually is. When I tell patients that they might consider purchasing a product that has for example generic diphenhydramine, they bring me several products and I even have a hard time finding the drug and strength.

was1 said...

it makes you wonder sometimes why the FDA allows this kind of shit. how many products with the name 'tylenol' do we need? and the drug companies pull the same crap with any recognizable name. now the original zicam is off the market but we have a whole line of other stuff named zicam. i remember a few years back there was a chlortrimeton 'non-drowsy formula'. funny thing, it didnt contain chlortrimeton. try explaining that one to the typical consumer.

Shalom said...

I've been ranting about this forever. Used to be Tylenol, Sudafed et al were names of products. Now they're brand names, and don't even necessarily have the original ingredients in them. It's beem quite a while since Kaopectate had kaolin and pectin in it, but I grew up with the version that had attapulgite, and now it's just green pepto-bismol...

One product I do miss, though, is Triaminic Allergy. Yes it was just Benadryl with a different label, but it was also the only diphenhydramine product on the market with a kosher certification, unless you were lucky enough to get some of RIJ Pharma's annual Passover run and stocked up for the year. I work in a very religious area and get asked about this all the time. I don't know, when I asked my own rabbi (who is Hasidic Orthodox and makes his living doing kosher certification, so he's something of an expert in the field) about whether medicine needs certification, his response was, "If the doctor tells you to use it, you use it and don't worry about it.", but not everyone appears to hold that opinion. (Admittedly, flavored medicines have stricter rules than tablets/capsules. What really bugged me was when one of the local pediatrician's offices would prescribe hydroxyzine syrup and tell the parents it was "kosher Benadryl". Got news for you, ladies, it's not Benadryl, and as far as I know it's not certified kosher either... I hope I've cured them of that, though.)

Anonymous said...

Add Robitussin to that list of confusing brand names.

As for proving to people Product A and Product B have the same thing, I point out that active ingredient box on the product label. Never had someone fight me on it.

-- Pharmacy student

Doris said...

I know this is horribly late, but your post reminded me of a media class I took in college.

All products on a par with one another can legally advertize as "the best," however, if you want to say "better" than your competition, you have to actually be able to demonstrate a superiority.

Lot of weasel wording in advertising. That one particular distinction has stuck with me though. EVERYTHING is the best.