Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What is the difference between Zyrtec and cetirizine?

Zyrtec is the name of an antihistamine that has been available over-the-counter in the United States since essentially January 1, 2008. Prior to then, Zyrtec was available by prescription only in the United States. Zyrtec is the trade name given for the generic chemical called cetirizine. They may not be perceived by the public as the same thing because of marketing and education. However, Zyrtec and cetirizine are the same compound. Zyrtec is promoted on the website ZYRTEC® Allergy Relief. The generics are not promoted on any particular website to my knowledge.

I have seen Zyrtec and cetirizine available in every pharmacy I looked, including: Bilo, CVS, Ingles, KMart, Publix, Riteaid, Sam's Club, Target, Walgreens, Walmart. Kao's standard rules for generics apply here. First, name brands cost more than the identical generic pills. The Zyrtec always costs more than the cetirizine. Second, greater quantity means a lower price per pill. Third, there is variation in the prices based solely on location. Fourth, there are discount sales that can lower the price further. Look for them in the stores. In my experience, the on-line Internet stores do not always list the specials or accurately reflect what's in the stores. I have seen prices from as high as $0.76/pill for a box of 10 pills of Zyrtec to as low as $0.049/pill for a box of 350 pills of generic cetirizine at Sam's Club. So, caveat emptor (let the buyer beware). On a side note, this latter price is almost identical to generic loratadine, so the slight price difference does not have to be a strong consideration in which medication you choose to use.

If you have questions about Zyrtec or cetirizine, ask your doctor.

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