US regulators have given Johnson & Johnson the go-ahead to sell the allergy drug Zyrtec-D without a prescription.

The US Food and Drug Administration says it has approved Zyrtec-D (cetirizine/pseudoephedrine), approved in 2001, on a nonprescription basis to people aged 12 and older as a treatment for hay fever or other upper respiratory allergies. However, unlike other allergy products, Zyrtec-D will be sold behind the counter because it contains pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient for making illegal methamphetamine.

J&J, which got hold of Zyrtec-D when it acquired Pfizer's consumer unit in December last year for $16.6 billion, is also hoping to market a nonprescription version of the drug that contains no pseudoephedrine and the file is currently under review at the FDA.

“The approval of this widely used drug for nonprescription use will enable many people to have access to another effective treatment for their allergy symptoms,'' said Andrea Leonard- Segal, director of the FDA's Division of Nonprescription Clinical Evaluation. “This approval reflects FDA's commitment to bringing prescription drugs to the over-the-counter market when they can be safely used without a prescription.''