A new option for managing your nasal allergies on your own – Nasacort AQ – is going to hit the market in the spring of 2014. You’ll be able to buy this nasal steroid spray over the counter, that is without a doctor’s prescription, much as you can the oral antihistamines such as Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec.
In recent years, there has been a continuing trend to make more allergy medicines available over the counter, or OTC for short. Most of these medications can be used safely, without the close supervision of a health care professional. Not only the 3 medications listed above, but also antihistamine eye drops like Alaway can now be bought without your doctor’s authorization.
Is this a good thing?
Speaking from my 12-year background of being uninsured, I think it is. But there are risks, and I’ll outline some of the pros and cons in this post.
The Pros of Nasacort AQ Going OTC* ** You can decide when/if to add Nasacort AQ to your treatment plan.** You are the expert when it comes to how you feel and how you respond to allergy treatment. OTC options enable you to take charge of managing your own health.
OTC medications can save you money. You no longer need to pay for a doctor visit before you can add this medication to your treatment plan. If you don’t have insurance, that can be helpful.
You can start treatment more quickly. If you don’t have to wait for a doctor’s office appointment, you can add Nasacort AQ any time you want. That can mean faster relief, now, when you need it.
The Cons of Nasacort AQ Going OTC
On the other hand, it’s not always roses when former prescription medications become easily accessible to the layperson, without any oversight from health care professionals.
Nasacort AQ is a steroid, and that carries some safety risks. Though the risks are relatively low, there is some chance that using a nasal steroid spray, particularly if you don’t stick to the recommended dosage, can result in septal ulceration or perforation. (The septum is the lining between your nostrils.) These sprays can also increase your risk for glaucoma and cataracts over time. If you are self-prescribing Nasacort AQ, chances are you won’t be getting the close medical supervision that could monitor for these side effects.
Going OTC could end up costing some people more. The price of OTC drugs is often lower than their former prescription counterparts, which is great if you don’t have insurance. But if you DO have prescription plan insurance, chances are your insurer will want you to go for the OTC (non-covered) medication, rather than any similar prescription medications. So, when Nasacort AQ goes OTC, insurers may no longer want to cover such drugs as Nasonex, Rhinocort, Omnaris, Zetonna, QNASL, etc.
Overall, even though I am a health care professional, I think it is a great idea when fairly safe prescription medications for non-life threatening health issues like nasal allergies become available over the counter. I like the idea of taking charge of my own health, without needing to see a doctor.
But, and this is important, I AM a health care professional. I understand about using any foreign substance, including FDA-approved medications, with care. I understand about educating myself on potential side effects and watching for danger signs that I should call my doctor for advice on.
I understand that not every medication is going to be right for every person. Treating health problems can be very much a trial-and-error process, but you do have to give each treatment an adequate chance to do its work. It’s never wise to jump willy nilly from medication to medication, simply because you can.
So, if you do decide to try Nasacort AQ when it goes over the counter next spring, be sure to educate yourself and to proceed with caution. And stay involved with your physician… he/she is an expert consultant
Kathi is an experienced consumer health education writer, with a prior career in nursing that spanned more than 30 years — much of it in the field of home health care. Over the past 15 years, she’s been an avid contributor for a number of consumer health websites, specializing in asthma, allergy, and COPD. She writes not only as a healthcare professional, but also as a lifelong sufferer of severe allergies and mild asthma, and as a caregiver for her mother with COPD.