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pharmacy

Where are the OTC cold remedies?
Have you gone to the drug store lately to purchase your favorite decongestant, only to find that it is no longer on the shelf?

Federal law recently began regulating the sale of certain decongestants as part of the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act. The regulation was instituted as an attempt to curb the illegal production of methamphetamine. Many over-the-counter (OTC) remedies, which contain pseudoephedrine, are now located “behind the counter” at drug stores nationwide.

Because methamphetamine can be manufactured or “cooked” using common household ingredients, including oral decongestants, limits have now been set to decrease the availability of these over-the-counter drugs to deter the illegal manufacture of meth.

Pseudoephedrine or ephedrine is an active ingredient in more than 150 cold, allergy and flu remedies. For example, it is the active ingredient in Sudafed™, Dimetapp™, Theraflu™, and Actifed™ (to name a few), as well as a host of others including generic or “house brands.” Effective April 2006, requirements for the sale of these products include the following:
  • Daily sales purchase are not to exceed 3.6 grams of pseudoephedrine or ephedrine (Some national drug store chains limit the single daily purchase to two products)
  • Thirty day limit of 9 grams
  • Mail order pharmacies must verify the patient’s identity before shipping
  • Mail order pharmacies must limit to 7.5 grams per 30 days
  • All non-liquid forms must be sold in blister packs
Effective September 2006, requirements will also include:
  • Products to be kept behind the counter or in a locked cabinet
  • A show of identification in the form of a driver’s license or federal identification card may be required
  • The signature of the purchaser along with address, product name, quantity sold and date.
Many states already have these requirements in place, but do not be surprised next time you head to the drug store to purchase a decongestant and you are asked to show some of the previously named items.

Alternatively, pharmaceutical manufacturers have been reformulating thei products to eliminate pseudoephedrine or ephedrine from their medications. You will now see products such as Sudafed PE™, Dimetane Decongestant™, Contact D™, Tylenol Cold™, and Comtrex™, which contain phenylephrine as the active decongestant. These are equally effective and available over the counter, without a prescription. Other alternatives, which are available over the counter, include nasal sprays such as Ocean™ and Ayr™, which contain saline, and also Afrin™ or Neo-Synephrine™ which contain oxymetazoline: a powerful decongestant whose use should be limited to no more than three days.

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"Where are the OTC cold remedies?"
   authored by:
PHARMACY
Tamara Dulin, R.Ph., is a registered pharmacist with Nightingale Home Health Care in Carmel, Indiana. A 1991 graduate of Butler University College of Pharmacy, she has spent the majority of her career in consulting. She is a past president of the Ind...



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