If you’re suffering with rhinitis this allergy season, there’s one thing you must know: Steer clear of the steroid nasal spray fluticasone.
In the UK, fluticasone is available as nasal drops and a nasal spray (Flixonase) at a prescription-strength 400 micrograms dose. However, fluticasone is also used as an ingredient in over-the-counter nasal sprays like Pirinase.
In the US, fluticasone (Flonase and Nasacort) used to be available on prescription-only. However, last year the US Food and Drug Administration switched it from being available as prescription-only to over-the-counter – a move that will soon be followed in the UK.
Suffice to say, this change will lure millions of allergy sufferers into using this drug, which is exactly what the manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) wants… Widen the market. Increase profit.
GSK even launched a fancy (and ironic) new website promising that fluticasone could clear those clogged nasal passages and help you get back a “great sense of smell.”
Filling their pockets with empty promises
However, if your stuffed-up nose is keeping you from smelling or even tasting your morning coffee, it’s because there’s something GSK has been keeping under wraps for years.
It’s a predictable and even common side effect.
And now reports are flying in from people who have lost – perhaps permanently -their senses of smell and taste after taking fluticasone.
GSK knew about this side effect and so did the medical authorities…
When the prescription version of fluticasone hit the market in 1994, GSK quickly began receiving complaints about people who could no longer smell or taste a thing.
In fact, the FDA’s own drug interaction database has shown hundreds of complaints from people who suffered a loss of smell and taste after taking fluticasone.
One woman lost both senses after taking the drug in 2003 and 12 years later she hasn’t improved at all.
Reports like this are why the label for prescription fluticasone was required to carry a warning about “alteration or loss of sense of taste and/or smell.”
But when fluticasone was approved for over-the-counter sales last year, the warning mysteriously disappeared. That’s despite the fact that the over-the-counter version of fluticasone is available at the same dose as the old prescription version and the directions for use are identical.
So how did GSK weasel out of carrying the warning on the over-the-counter product?
The fact is, when prescription medications transition to over-the-counter, the labelling discussions between the drug companies and medical authorities aren’t friendly sit-downs. They’re intense negotiations.
As you can imagine, in the case of fluticasone, GSK was dying to drop the warning from this drug. Let’s face it, this is an especially horrifying side effect for a drug that is targeted at adults and children as young as four years old… and if people knew about it, they probably won’t use fluticasone.
But by letting GSK erase the warning from fluticasone, millions of consumers are now given the false impression that this sledgehammer steroid drug is safer than it is.
GSK sold $100 million worth of over-the-counter fluticasone in just four months last year, and it’s on its way to turn around billions…
But with the same ingredients, strength and dose as the previous prescription version, fluticasone continues to rack up victims.
One fluticasone user named Mimi recently wrote in to a popular radio show to say that after using the drug for a couple of weeks, she couldn’t taste her food any more. One older gentleman lost his sense of smell and worries he won’t be able to detect a gas leak in his home.
The worst part is that fluticasone isn’t exactly some life-saving heart pill – it’s a drug that absolutely nobody needs to take. If you’re looking for some natural – and safe – allergy relief, try hot showers, saline spray, butterbur supplements, and steaming a few drops of eucalyptus oil. These have all been proven to relieve congestion and help you breathe more easily.
And if you’re taking fluticasone and have noticed any change to your senses of taste and smell, stop using the drug immediately and talk to your doctor. The longer your senses are gone – or impaired – the harder they may be to recover.
So this allergy season (and each one to follow), apart from staying away from the things that trigger your allergies, stay as far away from fluticasone as you possibly can.
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Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.
“Do Flonase and Nasacort harm sense of smell? Joe and Teresa Graedon, June 5, 2015, Winston-Salem Journal, journalnow.com
Flonase website, flonase.com