I love cetirizine hydrochloride

Or Zyrtec ™ as you probably know it.  One of my little quirks is that I pride myself on knowing the generic name for every medicine anybody in my family uses (believe me, that’s a lot) as well as the generic names for most common medicines.  Also, I never buy brand-name medication.  Never.  These two facts are related.  Really nice column by Yglesias on the matter:

The novel approach taken by Bart Bronnenberg, Jean-Pierre Dubé, Matthew Gentzkow, and Jesse Shapiro (PDF) was to study the difference in purchasing choices made by people in different occupations or with different levels of knowledge.

They show, for example, that high-income households are much more likely to buy name-brand headache remedies than low-income households. That’s an empirical finding that’s compatible with all kinds of different accounts: Poor people buy cheap stuff all the time while richer people prefer more expensive items, perhaps because they’re superior. The authors show, however, that while physicians have substantially higher average incomes than lawyers, they are also much less likely to buy name-brand headache medicine.

It’s not just physicians. Registered nurses have more modest incomes than doctors, but are shown to be farmore likely to buy generic pain relievers than other people with similar incomes. Most strikingly of all, professional pharmacists—the people who know which pills are which—are even less likely to buy name brand than are doctors and nurses.

This all strongly suggests that rich people avoid generics not because the pills are inferior, or even because they’re showing off, but simply because they’re careless. Prosperous people whose occupations give them health care expertise steer clear of expensive brands. Nonoccupational proxies for knowledge indicate the same thing. When you control for income, there’s a clear correlation between educational attainment and preference for generics. Among college graduates, health majors are more likely to buy generics than other science majors, who in turn are more likely to go generic with their headache remedies than engineers. Engineers, meanwhile, buy generics more often than people with nontechnical college degrees. By the same token, willingness to buy generic drugs is strongly correlated with ability to correctly identify the active ingredient in name-brand pills. In total, Americans waste about $32 billion a year in buying name-brand pills over the counter where generic alternatives are readily available.

As for the fact that rich people (the vast majority of whom are not medical professionals) are buying all the brand-name led on of my FB friends to comment, “rich ≠ smart.  Q.E.D.”

Yglesias also points out another important fact, “One moral of the story (Slate advertisers should pay attention) is that advertising works.”

And, as to the title of the post, I really do love Zyrtec.  All the time I see people suffering from allergies and I ask them if they are taking anything. Invariably, they seem to say Claritin (loratadine).  That stuff might as well be a placebo.  Truth is, the makers were so despereate to be able to claim “non-drowsy” that they weakened the efficacy until their were no somnolent side-effects.   Zyrtec meanwhile, has a small, but statistically significant, number of users that do get drowsy, but the upshot is that it works a whole hell of a lot better.

But while I’m at it, I should let you know that there’s a clear scientific consensus that if you are suffering from allergic rhinitis, that intranasal corticosteroids (e.g., Flonase–fluticasone proprionate) are far and away the best treatment.  And in my case literally changed by life.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

6 Responses to I love cetirizine hydrochloride

  1. mikemcauley says:

    I take cetirizine hydrochloride and fluticasone proprionate (yep–generics!) every day and I can vouch that, for me at least, this combination is the only thing that has ever worked to combat my allergies!! Nice to have some evidence that our frugality regarding prescriptions is actually more sensible than just saving some money 🙂

  2. John F. says:

    …and the truly brilliant seek to identify environmental allergens including those that are dietary, limit exposure and make behavioral changes, avoid chemicals that treat symptoms, and utilize proven non-clinical solutions such as frequent use of the neti pot and a diet that promotes anti-inflammation. 😀

    But when absolutely necessary generic medicines that treat symptoms work just as well as the brand names. After all, they’re identical chemicals.

    • Steve Greene says:

      If you are telling me that a neti-pot can hold a candle to an intranasal corticosteroid, you’re smoking something. I’d also love to hear your strategies on eliminating pollen from “the City of Oaks.” 🙂

      • John F. says:

        That’s not exactly what I said but the difference is that a neti pot has no side effects while being proven to work. I think a case can be made in all but the most severe cases for non-traditional allergy relief – in the case of severe debilitating allergies you should probably find someplace else to live, especially if you live in the “City of Oaks” and happen to be allergic to oak pollen.

        A key consideration for the decision should be based upon an individual’s requirement to perform potentially dangerous tasks (like operating heavy machinery) that require a 100% mental focus. I’d also add an important consideration as the concerns for potentially long term side effects of prolonged use of a drug without long term studies. You’ll find no concern for long term neti pot use as they’ve been utilized for thousands of years without issues.

        And as a truly fiscally conservative damn liberal, cost benefit should be considered. I’m fairly certain that neti pots would prevail in the cost benefit analysis especially if you don’t have health insurance or very little income.

      • Steve Greene says:

        I’ll take my chances on the long-term fluticasone proprionate which has no impact on mental focus. Your cost/benefit is also ignoring quality of life issues. My life is simply much better with Flonase (shorter to write) than it would be with a neti pot. Asking me to move out of Raleigh seems like something Paul Ryan would suggest.

      • John F. says:

        Well, you know, Paul Ryan & I have so much in common we’re almost twins. I’m glad it works for you but it might not be the best option for everyone.

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