Monday, November 28, 2005 Pseudoephedrine PSA

Recently, many retailers have started "voluntarily" placing Sudafed and its generic equivalents (pseudoephedrine) behind pharmacy counters in response to a patchwork of state laws. Maryland (as far as I know) doesn't have any such laws, but national retailers who want a uniform policy have forced me to deal with this issue.

The reason for these laws is that pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient in the production of "meth". Despite the fact that in Maryland "meth" is a lesser "problem" than "congestion", I resigned myself to dealing with this annoyance.

What I hadn't realized is that I would be dealing with a "bait and switch". When I was at Safeway today, I noticed something called "Sudafed PE" (and a generic "nasal decongestant PE"). I assumed it stood for PseudoEphedrine -- the people who make Sudafed might want to market different products, and so push pseudoephedrine down to a "type" of Sudafed.

Then I noticed some laminated cards that I could take to the register if I wanted real pseudoephedrine. I initially thought it was a dosage issue, but it turns out companies have been pushing phenylephrine as a pseudoephedrine replacement, although it "might not be as effective or long-lasting".

I've long been concerned that drug companies sell over-the-counter medication based on the symptoms that it treats ("cold medicine") rather than the ingredients. So people without a cough end up ingesting cough suppressant. Now the active ingredient in a common drug is being replaced, and I bet 90% of consumers don't know what's going on.

Boy, are there going to be some disappointed meth lab owners when they finally get around to reading the label.

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