OTC antihistamines could be linked to infertility in men

Researchers from the Institute of Biology and Experimental Medicine, in Argentina, have cautioned against overuse of antihistamines.

Human sperm illustration

Over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines could be linked to impaired fertility in men, a study using animal research suggests.

Published in the journal Reproduction
, researchers found several reports of adverse effects of antihistamine — which pharmacy frequently offers to patients to help with their hayfever — on normal testicular function.

The researchers from the Institute of Biology and Experimental Medicine, in Argentina, said men trying for families should be cautioned against antihistamine overuse, and stressed the need to further evaluate these negative effects in bigger clinical studies.

Scientists reviewed a mix of small- and large-scale animal research conducted over the last 40 years. They found antihistamines could have negative long-term side effects for male fertility.

They concluded antihistamines are likely to affect the production of male sexual hormones in the testicles. This can result in a reduced sperm count and lower quality sperm.

Carolina Mondillo, author of the study, said more large-scale trials were needed to evaluate the possible negative effects of antihistamine on reproductive and sexual health.

“This can then lead to developing novel treatments to relieve allergy symptoms without compromising fertility.

“The data compiled in this review indicates the crucial involvement of histamine in orchestrating testicular functions, but even so there is still much to learn about the implicated mechanisms,” she said.

John Smith, chief executive of the Proprietary Association of Great Britain — the trade association for manufacturers of branded OTC medicines, self-care medical devices, and food supplements — cautioned that ”this report focuses exclusively on previous and known studies of the effects of antihistamines on animals”.

“People taking OTC antihistamines should not be concerned by this research. Antihistamines are an effective and appropriately safe way to provide relief from symptoms of allergies if used in accordance with the clear on-pack instructions and the patient information leaflet inside,” he said.

He advised anyone who has any concerns about taking a medicine should speak to a pharmacist for advice.

Last updated
Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, March 2018;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20204536