BACKGROUND: Pruritus is one of the most common complaints among patients who visit physicians. Over-the-counter topical antipruritic medications are widely recommended by physicians and are self-administered by patients for the treatment of pruritus. However, there are few scientific controlled studies evaluating the effect of these drugs on pruritus. OBJECTIVES: To assess the role of physician-recommended over-the-counter medications for the treatment of pruritus. METHODS: Records were analyzed for office-based physician visits in which over-the-counter antipruritic topical medications were recommended in the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey between the years 1995 and 2000. RESULTS: The largest proportion of over-the-counter antipruritic agent recommendations were during visits to dermatologists, accounting for 41% of all such recommendations. Other physicians that recommended such agents included family physicians and pediatricians, accounting respectively for 26% and 21% of the recommendations. The most commonly recommended over-the-counter medications included hydrocortisone preparations (72%) and diphenhydramine (15%). Over-the-counter medications were more frequently recommended in the pediatric age group. CONCLUSION: This study demonstrates that over-the-counter medications are frequently recommended for the treatment of pruritus.
- National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey
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