FDA approves new OTC allergy eye drops

Allergy season is coming. Millions of Americans will suffer from itchy and watery eyes shortly. The current treatment of itchy eyes can be done by only two types of OTC products, one is ketotifen- based, such as zaditor or allaway. Ketotifen has anti-histamine as well as mast cell stabilizer activity, and works generally well for itchy eyes. The other type is pheniramine- based, such as Visine-A and Opcon-A. This one only has anti-histamine activity. In addition, Visine-A contains a vasoconstrictor, which may temporarily relieves redness but over long-term may cause worsening red eyes.

For many patients, ketotifen may not be enough to relieve their itchiness. In such cases I often prescribe patanol or pataday (olopatadine 0.1% and 0.2% respectively). These usually work very well, and quite safe and well- tolerated, though patients have to come to see a doctor to get prescription.

Now FDA just approved patanol and pataday as OTC, and may be available as early as March 2, 2020. (news link https://www.mdmag.com/medical-news/pataday-fda-approves-prescription-allergy-eye-drops-over-the-counter-alcon)

This is great news. As patients no longer have to wait for weeks before getting an appointment from an eye doctor’s office. If your eyes are itchy, just go to the pharmacy to pick up some ketotifen or patanol if the former does not work for you. This will also reduce cost from health care system and reduce work productivity lost due to going to doctors’ offices. Of course I bet it will be expensive, but having easy access is the key point here. And hopefully generics become available in future to make it more affordable for consumers.

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