OTC Cough Medicine Prohibited to NJ Minors Without Rx


New Jersey has enacted a law to stop the sale of OTC products containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to children under 18 without a prescription.

New Jersey has enacted a law to stop the sale of OTC products containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to children under 18 without a prescription.

Gov. Chris Christie signed the law amid growing rates of youth overuse and abuse of the cough suppressant DXM, which is a component of more than 120 OTC cough and cold medications such as Robitussin, Nyquil, and Theraflu.

Effective February 1, 2016, DXM will join alcohol, tobacco, and pseudoephedrine in a limited-access category of products.

“DXM is affordable, easy accessible, and legal…Unfortunately, that’s a combination which makes it appearing to teenagers who are taking increased doses to get high,” said state Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini, who co-sponsored the legislation.

One in 30 teenagers abuses OTC cough medicines containing DXM, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s 2014 Monitoring the Future survey.

Abuse of DXM-containing products has been linked to hallucinations, loss of motor control, seizures, liver and cardiovascular damage, and even death.

In light of this, Consumer Healthcare Products Association president and CEO Scott Melville praised the New Jersey law in a statement.

“New Jersey is the ninth state to implement a law addressing the issue of cough medicine abuse among teens, and the enactment of similar legislation in state across the country has indicated that limiting teen access to DXM is a proven way to prevent abuse,” he said.

The states with similar laws limiting children’s access to DXM are Arizona, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington.

While these laws help limit the availability of DXM-containing products to youth in these states, there is still a need for increased OTC literacy among adolescents.

An alarming 50% of teens aren’t properly educated on OTC medications, national surveys have found. National Council on Patient Information and Education executive vice president Ray Bullman previously said this is due in part to knowledge gaps and “feelings of invincibility.”

In the absence of school interventions, pharmacists can play a pivotal role in raising awareness about the potential dangers of OTC medications among teenagers before they develop bad habits.

“As the medication expert, [the pharmacist can] play a very important—and visible—role in the community promoting safe OTC use among teens,” Bullman said.

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