Spring is around the corner and so is allergy season, but some people are realizing that their brand-name medication is costing a lot more than usual.

Those with seasonal allergies have noticed they have been coughing, sneezing and blowing their nose throughout the winter. If you count yourself among this group, just know you aren't going crazy.

Allergy season has become longer and, unfortunately, stronger.

Insult to Injury

Inna Dodor from Getty Images
Inna Dodor from Getty Images

Whether or not you believe in climate change, we are experiencing warmer-than-average temperatures year-round, and that is causing pollen season to not only start up a lot earlier than normal - it is also lasting a lot later into the year. Warmer temperatures are helping plants to bloom earlier.

As for why allergies seem to be growing more troublesome, Columbia University found that there's more carbon dioxide in the air. That is helping plants increase their overall pollen production, which explains why we've been seeing more high pollen count days than before.

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And when pollen is hitting the air earlier and in larger amounts, that's why our allergic reactions are seemingly unending. A recent article from Time said this is also creating a phenomenon where people are developing more sinus and ear infections because the constant inflammation is preventing fluid and mucus from draining properly.

This is causing people to buy more over-the-counter antihistamines like Allegra and Claritin. That rising demand is forcing some uncomfortable changes in their price.

What in the Sticker Shock?

Craig Mitchelldyer, Getty Images
Craig Mitchelldyer, Getty Images

As someone who is still dealing with itchy, watery eyes, I continue to rely on Zyrtec to stop myself from demolishing an entire box of tissues.

Imagine my surprise during a recent trip to Walmart when I saw how much my Zyrtec costs and had a moment where I thought I was hallucinating. And then I tried remembering how much I spent on a bottle of tablets during my last allergy run and gaslit myself into thinking it wasn't that much of a difference.

But then I found the original receipt at the bottom of my purse, because that's where all receipts go to die, and found I wasn't going mad. My allergy medication did go up in price.

I'm not the only one who's noticed as a quick Google search led me to many forums and social media posts complaining about how expensive allergy meds are.

It appears New York's prices aren't as bad as what people in other states are encountering, with one person finding a "value size" box of Claritin listed at $48.29 a box at their local CVS. They also looked at the store-brand option and found the box of 100 tablets cost $51.99!

That video was stitched on TikTok by Dr. Rubin, who purports to be a board-certified allergist. Even he admitted to having no idea what's causing allergy medication to skyrocket in price.

"Antihistamines are so expensive right now," he said. "If you go to Target, it's $51 for 100 tablets, which is about 51 cents per pill."

He added other brands like Claritin and Allegra have jacked up the price of their products, with a 20-count of 24-hour Claritin costing $1.12 per tablet. He says the costs have become "outrageous."

Dr. Rubin suggested people start buying their allergy medication in bulk from places like Sam's Club and Costco to save money, and to also consider the generic store brand. Ironically, some users agreed it's worth the membership price by saying the amount they save on their allergy medication pays for their annual dues.

He also said people can save money by asking their doctor for a script to see if insurance will help pay for the medication.

@rubin_allergy @secret brittany why are allergy medications so expensive? #allergies #medication #tiktokdoc #learnontiktok ♬ original sound - Dr. Rubin, MD

Why Is It So Expensive?

A survey from Healio has tracked the price of allergy medication and noted that their price increases have outpaced inflation between 2014 and 2020. On average, the cost of rhinologic medications increased by 42.06%.

This is raising the alarm on medication affordability and puts allergy medicine in the same realm as insulin, which is also dealing with inflated prices. While diabetics need insulin to live, allergy medicine helps improve quality of life.

Sina J. Torabi, MD, second-year otolaryngology resident of the University of California, Irvine, said of the cost increases:

What’s more surprising is that this price increase didn’t necessarily vary based on whether the medication had a generic version. There is no real reason that we can think of regarding why a medication that has been around for more than 20 years and has generic versions should still be raising its price over and above the rate of inflation.

According to the study, drugmakers charge higher prices for their medication because of the FDA's patent approval process. They add the prices help recoup the money lost during the development phase of their medication to pay researchers or fund testing.

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However, you would think since allergy medicine has been around for so long, the drugmakers would have made back that money a thousand times over.

Perhaps allergy medicine is skyrocketing in cost because of increase demand? With people suffering from their symptoms a lot longer, they are consuming more medication to control their allergies. However, even that seems like a lukewarm reason to a major issue.

Allergy, Clod, Flu - Blowing nose

In the end, you aren't hallucinating those prices. This appears to be a major problem in the allergy treatment industry and, at the moment, it appears not much is being done to cap costs and keep this treatment on the affordable side.

Said Torabi:

However, there unfortunately isn’t an easy or quick fix in the current U.S. healthcare system. If we could encourage insurance companies to switch to flat fee copayments for medications, that would be a start.

He proposed the increase in generic drugs and decreasing the 20-year limit of monopoly drug rights for companies.

In short: much is needed to be done but it seems we're still waiting on who will take the first step to fix this.

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