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WellPoint Unit Distributes Allergy Pill Coupons

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NU Online News Service, Dec. 23, 3:13 p.m. – Blue Cross of California, a unit of WellPoint Health Networks Inc., Thousand Oaks, Calif., is fighting complaints about the conversion of certain prescription allergy drugs into over-the-counter drugs by setting up a coupon discount program that helps members buy one of the drugs, Alavert, for about $11 per month for three months.

The Food and Drug Administration recently decided that the drugs, called non-sedating antihistamines, are safe enough for patients to buy them without prescriptions.

Many prescription drug programs cover prescription drugs but exclude coverage for over-the-counter drugs. Some consumer adovcates had suggested that converting non-sedating antihistamines into over-the-counter drugs might put an entire class of allergy drugs out of reach of consumers.

But WellPoint, which pushed hard for the change, argues that requiring consumers to visit their doctors for prescriptions for such safe drugs was a waste of financial resources.