Drug Chains Caution Against OTC Pseudoephedrine Curbs

FEBRUARY 01, 2005
Ken Rankin

Chain drug store industry leaders are urging Congress to resist pressure to place new restrictions on the sale of OTC cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine—a move being pushed by some law enforcement officials as a means to curb methamphetamine (meth) trafficking and abuse.

Because legitimate drugs containing pseudoephedrine can be used as the raw ingredients for meth produced in kitchen sink "labs," state and federal officials are considering plans to reclassify these drugs as Schedule V controlled substances—a step that would force pharmacies to sell these OTCs from "behind the counter."

Oklahoma has already imposed such restrictions on pseudoephedrine drugs, and legislation is expected to be introduced in Congress this year to require retailers to obtain identification from consumers before selling these cold medicines to them.

National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Pharmacy Regulatory Affairs Vice President Mary Ann Wagner, RPh, however, called this a "stopgap" approach that fails to address the problem of addiction that is driving the demand for meth.

In testimony before a House subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Wagner warned that the Oklahoma model has "shortcomings and may not be as successful as originally thought." According to NACDS, controlled substance restrictions on the sale of pseudoephedrine products would inconvenience legitimate consumers without stopping illegal sales of these drugs to criminals.

Mr. Rankin is a freelance medical writer.