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Hay Fever - Think twice before asking your GP for Antihistamines

Cetirizine and loratadine are the two most widely prescribed antihistamines for hay fever in Lincolnshire with prescribing costs across the county reaching almost £200,000 each year. South Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group are asking patients to purchase their own antihistamines rather than asking their GP for a prescription.

At a time when the NHS is facing increasing financial pressure, the continued provision of low cost, commercially available antihistamines on prescription is no longer considered to be an appropriate use of limited NHS funds. Patients suffering from hayfever who currently receive cetirizine or loratadine on prescription are asked to consider purchasing their own supply from a supermarket, community pharmacy or other retailer. Generic versions of both of these products are now available for as little as £1 for 28 tablets. 

The main focus for this year’s Allergy Awareness campaign is to raise the profile of seasonal allergic rhinitis or ‘hayfever’. This is considered to be the most common allergy, with one in four of the UK population suffering with it every year. Each year, the number of allergy sufferers increases by 5% with half of those affected being children. 

At this time of year, many people start to be affected by allergies due to larger quantities of airborne grass pollen, suffering from symptoms such as sneezing, runny, blocked or stuffy nose, itchy eyes and post-nasal drip. Some people are allergic to other types of pollen, such as tree or weed pollen, and may be affected at different times of the year.

Dr Kevin Hill, Chair of NHS South Lincolnshire CCG said:

“Every time a doctor writes a prescription, the NHS incurs additional charges through dispensing and administrative fees – and if GP time is also included the cost rises even higher.

“Antihistamines can be bought from a shop or pharmacy for far less than the price the NHS pays when providing them on prescription. For that reason, we’re asking people to make this choice.

Anyone who is feeling unwell with the symptoms of hayfever should visit their pharmacist in the first instance who can offer advice on medication that is available over the counter to relieve the symptoms associated with the condition.”