Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals’ Effect on Driving

Schering-Plough, a worldwide, research-based pharmaceutical company that spent $1.9 billion on R&D based on $9.5 billion in 2005 net sales, used The Virtual Reality Medical Center (VRMC) as a study site to test the effect of 1 of its antihistamines on healthy people’s cognitive skills and mood.

In this blinded study, researchers enrolled 24 participants to compare the effects of a high dose of 3 over-the-counter allergy medications: fexofenadine, loratadine (the Schering-Plough manufactured drug), and ceritizine. The protocol required each participant to complete 6 visits, 1 week apart. Participants were required to abstain from caffeine or alcohol for 24 hours prior to each visit. At the beginning of each visit, each participant was given, at random, a pill containing 1 of the study medications or a sugar pill, then wait 1 hour for it to take effect. Each participant next carried out a computerized test of tracking ability while heart rate and respiration were monitored, then completed pencil-and-paper questionnaires about mood and sleepiness. The researcher observed and noted whether or not the participant seemed OK to drive, and arranged for a ride home for the participant if (s)he was judged too drowsy.

After this study was conducted, published studies showed that among antihistamines for drivers, loratadine or fexofenadine are probably preferable to ceritizine or older antihistamines (Morike, K., & Gleiter, ChH. (2003). Medicinal drugs and automobile driving ability. Ther Umsch, 60(6), 347–354).

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