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Allergist: Singulair, Claritin Combo Could Be Win-Win for Allergy, Asthma Sufferers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's decision to consider a proposal to combine the medications Singulair and Claritin could be a win-win for allergy and asthma sufferers, an allergist said Wednesday.

Dr. Clifford Bassett, a New York allergist and member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, said many of his patients rely on both drugs to ease their symptoms.

"People with moderate to severe asthma often suffer from allergies as well," he said. "And we've seen the incidence of asthma double in recent years. So, with this, you have a super-convenient way to moderate the symptoms of both asthma and allergies."

Schering-Plough/Merck Pharmaceuticals, a joint venture between Schering-Plough Corp. and Merck & Co. (MRK), said this week that it is seeking marketing approval of loratadine/montelukast, which are the ingredients found in Claritin and Singulair, for treatment of nasal allergy symptoms. Click here for more on the proposal

Although the two medicines work differently, they treat similar symptoms, said Bassett.

Singulair blocks the action of leukotrienes in the body. Leukotrienes are chemicals that cause swelling and secretions and can aggravate the symptoms of allergies and asthma, including headache, sore throat and upper-respiratory infections.

Claritin blocks histamines, which trigger allergy symptoms such as stuffy and runny nose, watery eyes, headache and sore throat. Bassett said the two medications will not cause harmful interactions in most people.

"The general person can take them together safely," Bassett added. "There are some medical conditions that would restrict the combination, but it would be a prescription drug so a doctor would know if there was a medical condition before prescribing it."

And putting the two into a single pill, he said, will better ensure that people remember to take both medications.

"It would be easier and more convenient, increase compliance and would probably be cheaper because you would have one co-pay for both drugs," he added.