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Cetirizine chemical structure

(±)-[2-[4-[(4-chlorophenyl)phenylmethyl]-1- piperazinyl]ethoxy]acetic acid
IUPAC name
CAS number
ATC code


Chemical formula {{{chemical_formula}}}
Molecular weight 388.89
Bioavailability well absorbed
Metabolism Excreted mainly unchanged
Elimination half-life 8.3 Hours
Excretion Urine (mainly), hepatic or excrement (Small amounts)
Pregnancy category {{{pregnancy_category}}}
Legal status OTC in Canada
Routes of administration Oral

Cetirizine /sɛˈtɪrɨzn/ is a second-generation[1] antihistamine used in the treatment of allergies, hay fever, angioedema, and urticaria. It is a major metabolite of hydroxyzine, and a racemic selective H1 receptor inverse agonist.



Formerly prescription-only in the USA and Canada, cetirizine is now available over-the-counter in both countries[2] as Zyrtec and Reactine, respectively. Zyrtec was the highest-grossing new non-food product of 2008 in the US, generating sales of $315.9 million.[3] It is also available as a generic drug. In Turkey, Australia and New Zealand, Zyrtec is available over-the-counter in pharmacies and in the UK and The Netherlands cetirizine can be sold in limited quantities off-the-shelf in any outlet and is often available in supermarkets. As of 2009Template:Dated maintenance category, Germany made many generic drugs containing cetirizine available in pharmacies without prescription.[4] Norway, Sweden,[5] Finland, Poland and Israel also recognize Cetirizine as an over-the-counter medicine. In India, it is sold over-the-counter as brand-name "CTZ" (formerly called "Cetzine"), even though it remains classified as a Schedule H (prescription) drug.[6] India also classifies Cetirizine as an OTC drug, and uses it as an alternative to Pheniramine (Avil) which is no longer provided OTC in India.


Cetirizine crosses the blood–brain barrier only slightly, reducing the sedative side-effect common with older antihistamines.[7] It has also been shown to inhibit eosinophil chemotaxis and LTB4 release. At a dosage of 20 mg, Boone et al. found that it inhibited the expression of VCAM-1 in patients with atopic dermatitis.[8] Unlike many other antihistamines, Cetirizine does not exhibit anticholinergic properties.[9]

The levorotary enantiomer of cetirizine, known as levocetirizine, is the more active form.

File:Cetirizine structure racemic.svg

L-Stereoisomer, levocetirizine (top) and D-stereoisomer of cetirizine


Administration method and metabolism

Chewable, non-chewable, and syrup forms of cetirizine are similarly absorbed rapidly and effectively, with absorbed food minutely affecting the absorption rate which yields a peak serum level one hour after administration;[10] in a study of healthy volunteers prescribed 10 mg tablets, once daily for 10 days, a mean peak serum level of 311 ng/mL was observed.[11] The metabolic effects of cetirizine are long acting, remaining in the system for a maximum of 21 hours before being excreted; the average elimination half-life is 8 hours. About 70% of the drug is removed through urination, of which half is observed as unchanged cetirizine compound. Another 10% is excreted.[10][11]

Like many other antihistamine medications, cetirizine is commonly prescribed in combination with pseudoephedrine hydrochloride, a decongestant. These combinations are marketed using the same brand name as the cetirizine with a "-D" suffix (Zyrtec-D, Virlix-D, etc.)



Cetirizine's primary indication is for hay fever and other allergies. Because the symptoms of itching and redness in these conditions are caused by histamine acting on the H1 receptor, blocking those receptors temporarily relieves those symptoms.

Rhinovirus infection

Interleukin 6 and interleukin 8 have been shown to be elevated in acute respiratory distress syndrome.[12] Cetirizine contains L- and D-stereoisomers. Chemically, levocetirizine is the active L-enantiomer of cetirizine. One recent study of airway epithelial cells showed that Levocetirizine may have beneficial effects on the pathophysiologic changes related to human rhinovirus (HRV) infection.[13] Airway inflammation caused from a cytokine storm secondary to acute respiratory distress syndrome could also theoretically benefit.

Kimura's disease

Cetirizine is an effective agent in treating the symptoms of Kimura's disease, which mostly occurs in young Asian men, affecting the lymph nodes and soft tissue of the head and neck in the form of tumor-like lesions. Cetirizine's properties of being effective both in the treatment of pruritus (itching) and as an anti-inflammatory agent make it suitable for the treatment of the pruritus associated with these lesions.[14] In a 2005 study, the American College of Rheumatology conducted treatments initially using prednisone, followed by steroid dosages and azathioprine, omeprazole, and calcium and vitamin D supplements over the course of two years.[14] The skin condition of the patient began to improve and the skin lesions lessened. However, there were symptoms of cushingoid and hirsutism observed before the patient was removed from the courses of steroids and placed on 10 mg/day of cetirizine to prevent skin lesions;[14] an agent suitable for the treatment of pruritus associated with such lesions.[14] Asymptomatically, the patient's skin lesions disappeared after treatment with cetirizine, blood eosinophil counts became normal,[14] corticosteroid effects were resolved,[14] and a remission began within a period of two months.[14] It is also thought that the inhibition of eosinophils may be the key to treatment of Kimura's disease due to the role of eosinophils, rather than other cells with regards to the lesions of the skin.[14]

Side effects

Dryness of the mouth, nose and throat, drowsiness, urinary retention, blurred vision, nightmares and headaches are commonly reported side effects of this drug (in over 40% of the patients). Stomach aches are usually rare, but mostly present in patients with lactose intolerance.[15] Cetirizine does not block the action of the muscarinic acetylcholine receptors, even though these side effects can occur in some patients. Also, cetirizine does not have antidopaminergic properties. In 2012, the FDA added cetirizine in Drugs to Watch List for oculogyric crisis.[16]

Many studies have investigated the effects of acute drug administration on Eriksen flanker task performance. For example, Ramaekers et al. (1992) [17] used an on-the-road driving tests, and several laboratory tests including the letter version of the Eriksen task to assess the effects of two antihistamines and alcohol on driving-related skills. The flanker test was considered relevant, because dealing with distracting information is an important part of safe driving. Both alcohol and the antihistamine cetirizine impaired performance in the test measures, and their effects were additive. The non-sedating antihistamine loratidine had no effect on any of the measures studied. The arrows version of the flanker test has also been evaluated as a method of detecting impairment due to alcohol and drugs in drivers at the roadside.[18]


The following synthesis of this compound was reported in 1985:[19]

File:Cetirizine synthesis.png


  2. Payne, January W (2008-01-09). Over-the-Counter Zyrtec: a Money-Saver?. U.S. News & World Report.
  3. includeonly>Elliott, Stuart. "A Strategy When Times Are Tough: "It's New!"", 24 March 2009. Retrieved on 26 March 2009.
  4. Cetirizin.
  5. Cetirizin.
  6. Drugs and Cosmetics (2nd amendment) rules, 2006. item 104 in schedule H.
  7. Gupta, A, Chatelain P, Massingham R, Jonsson EN, Hammarlund-Udenaes M (February 2006). Brain distribution of cetirizine enantiomers: comparison of three different tissue-to-plasma partition coefficients: K(p), K(p,u), and K(p,uu). Drug Metab. Dispos. 34 (2): 318–23.
  8. Boone M, Lespagnard L, Renard N, Song M, Rihoux JP (July 2000). Adhesion molecule profiles in atopic dermatitis vs. allergic contact dermatitis: pharmacological modulation by cetirizine. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 14 (4): 263–6.
  9. Orzechowski, RF, DS Currie, CA Valancius (4). Comparative anticholinergic activities of 10 histamine H1 receptor antagonists in two functional models.. European Journal of Pharmacology 506 (3): 257–264.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Anderson, Philip; Knoben, James E.; Troutman, William G. (2002). Handbook of clinical drug data, New York: McGraw-Hill. URL accessed 2009-11-19.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Zyrtec prescribing information. URL accessed on 2009-11-19.
  12. (1993). High levels of interleukin-8 in the blood and alveolar spaces of patients with pneumonia and adult respiratory distress syndrome. Infection and immunity 61 (11): 4553–9.
  13. Jang YJ, Wang JH, Kim JS, Kwon HJ, Yeo NK, Lee BJ (March 2009). Levocetirizine inhibits rhinovirus-induced ICAM-1 and cytokine expression and viral replication in airway epithelial cells. Antiviral Res. 81 (3): 226–33.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 14.7 Ben-Chetrit E, Amir G, Shalit M (February 2005). Cetirizine: An effective agent in Kimura's disease. Arthritis Rheum. 53 (1): 117–8.
  15. (2011) British National Formulary (BNF) 61.
  17. Ramaekers, J. G., Uiterwijk, M. M. C., & O'Hanlon, J. F. (1992). Effects of loratadine and cetirizine on actual driving and psychometric test performance, and EEG during driving,. European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 42: 363–369.
  18. Tiplady, B., Degia, A., & Dixon, P. (2005). Assessment of driver impairment: Evaluation of a two-choice tester using ethanol.. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour 8: 299–310.
  19. Template:Cite patent

Books and journals

  1. Anderson, P. O., Knoben, J. E., et al. (2002) Handbook of clinical drug data 10th ed. McGraw-Hill International
  2. Pfizer Inc, et al. (2006) ZYRTEC (cetirizine hydrochloride) Tablets, Chewable Tablets and Syrup For Oral Use Pfizer Incorporated publications
  3. Chetrit, E. B., Amir, G., Shalit, M. (2005). Cetirizine: an effective agent in Kimura's Disease Arthritis & Rheumatism (Arthritis care & research) Vol 53, p117-118

External links

Antihistamines edit

(Acrivastine) (Astemizole) (Azelastine) (Brompheniramine) (Carbinoxamine) (Cetirizine) (Chlorphenamine) (Clemastine) (Desloratadine) (Dimenhydrinate) (Diphenhydramine) (Doxylamine) (Loratadine) (Fexofenadine) (Meclizine) (Promethazine) (Triprolidine)