The Checkout

Putting the Fed in Sudafed

Despite an endless stream of news reports in recent years about the rise of methamphetamine addiction, I was blissfully ignorant a few months back when I ventured to my local Rite Aid for some Sudafed. I walked out with what I thought was a box of those trusty little red pills, only to find out when I got home it had been swapped with a nearly identical looking package containing something called phenylephrine.

When I went up to the pharmacy on my next visit, I saw all the decongestant and cold meds containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine were behind the counter to prevent them from being used for more nefarious purposes than clearing my sinuses.

Starting tomorrow, a federal law kicks in that permanently exiles medicines with ephedrine and pseudoephedrine behind the drugstore counter or inside locked cases.

Drugstores, in D.C. at least, already do that for products that have a habit of going missing, such as baby formula, expensive lotions and condoms.

Getting your hands on some Sudafed, however, is going to require more effort than it does to obtain those things. Besides having to track down a store clerk to get it for you, you'll have to flash some ID and sign a log book that the store supposedly keeps for two years and lets law enforcement authorities peek at, as needed.

To get a jump on the new restrictions, drug makers have already started replacing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine with an older ingredient, phenylephrine, which can stay out on store shelves. (The likely cause of my Rite Aid switcheroo.)

But there's debate among experts over whether the substitute is as effective. I didn't think it was and the next time I was at the drugstore, I headed straight for the pharmacy to ask for a box of Sudafed. (You're already limited to buying 3.6 grams a day and 9 grams a month.) Now, I hoard my supply the way Elaine on "Seinfeld" hoarded the Sponge.

Law enforcement authorities assure us this is all for the greater good. According to Francesca Lunzer Kritz, author of the Post story, meth use is far lower in states that restrict pseudoephedrine sales to drugstores only, compared with states that don't.

Do you think the feds have gone too far?

By Annys Shin |  September 29, 2006; 7:00 AM ET Consumer News
Previous: Saving Private Ryan from Bankruptcy | Next: After the Spinach Outbreak

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



I accidentally came home with some generic dayquil-like product with phenylephrine a month ago when I had a cold, took it without reading the label in detail (I know what's in it - it's generic dayquil), and was completely annoyed when my congestion didn't go away. At all. That stuff does not work.

I'm guessing it won't take people long to figure this out, though - it's not like other drugs that have invisible effects and could kill you if they don't work. This one, you take it and either your nose clears up or it doesn't.

Posted by: h3 | September 29, 2006 7:57 AM

Yes the Feds have gone too far. Frankly, Meth users are not a large part of the population. Secondly a lot of them are i the suberbs and not the city. Thirdly, even if you don't go into the drug store to buy, you certainly can buy in bulk over the internet. And, Lastly, most people take Sudafed and Tylenol for headaches and colds, not to get high. So I still don't see why everyone else is being punished because of a few crazy people. You make agents to get high out of practically everything from cold syrup to glue. People who are determined to do things like this will just find substitutes. They have mental issues. Since the dawn of time mankind has used "drugs" for pleasure and relief. The cops need to stop being silly and go after real perps.

Posted by: Jean | September 29, 2006 8:11 AM

"...sign a log book that the store supposedly keeps for two years and lets law enforcement authorities peak at, as needed."

Maybe you do need your sudafed. "Peak" is the top of a mountain, or a highest point. "Peek" means to look at, take a quick glance, etc.

Proofread! Proofread! Proofread!

Posted by: Spelling&Grammar | September 29, 2006 8:25 AM

The feds are barely catching up. Sudafed and its clones have been behind the counter in most mid-western states for at least a year. Meth has been a serious issue there for some time now (and yes folks, there is life on this continent between the appalachian and rocky mountain chains), so much so in fact that after these medications were put behind the counter in the midwest, dealers would drive to other parts of the country to buy them in bulk.

Personally, I think that putting pseudoephedrine behind the counter will save a lot of effort in the cold and flu season. No more wandering the isles of a strange CVS or Walgreens. No more reading the tiny print through bleary eyes. We can just belly up to the counter and ask a human being to find the stuff for us!

Posted by: cotopaxi | September 29, 2006 8:35 AM

LOL @ Spelling&Grammar. Good catch. :) She could be suffering from the drowsiness side effect of taking the sudafed. ;)

In all seriousness- drugs need cracked down on, but there are tons of other things they could be doing to keep us safe besides putting stuff behind a counter. I guess it's a good preventative step that might keep a kid or two out of trouble- but if they're determined they'll just visit another store or order it online as someone else mentioned.

Posted by: Chris | September 29, 2006 8:36 AM

I don't mind it being behind the counter but I object to a logbook at which the authorities can peek. Too Big Brother-ish for me. And it's not like I use the stuff like crazy. It's no business of the government which OTC meds I take (or don't take).

Posted by: Non-debtor | September 29, 2006 8:43 AM

What really chafes me is that it applies to infant sudafed, too! Do you have any idea how expensive that tiny bottle of sudafed is, for how little actual pseudoephedrine? Aaargh.

Phenylephrine is not the same at all, and it's not available in long-lasting formulas.

I understand making it tough for meth manufacturers, but can't the drug companies come up with something better than phenylephrine?

Posted by: Lisa | September 29, 2006 8:43 AM

While I don't mind asking for the drug from the pharmacist, I do mind being made to feel like a criminal for doing so. I buy the drug for my husband and myself to help with chronic allergy and ear problems. It will easy to exceed the limit when buying for two people...there should be some way to help people who have a legitmate use for this drug.

Posted by: Cornland | September 29, 2006 8:54 AM

Lisa: Why does it matter whether it is infant or adult sudafed?? I don't understand what difference that makes.

It's not they are not allowing you to buy it, they just put it behind the counter. You are not forced to buy this phenylephrine. It sounds like people only buy it accidentally. Here in the midwest, it has been a common thing for sudafed to be behind the counter and it has really helped in the fight against meth. Meth is an absolutely HUGE problem and simple things like making it harder for them to get their starting products helps out. Even though this may be mostly a rural problem, if they need the sudafed they can drive into the city and get it. Therefore, everywhere needs to put this stuff behind the counter. A very small inconvenience to help in the fight against a horrible problem.

Posted by: Nathan | September 29, 2006 8:57 AM

Yes, I think these restrictions are absurd but it will just be like buying cigarettes I guess. I bought, and actually got, some generic Sudafed yesterday and didn't have to sign a list - that might change my feelings but I doubt it.

Posted by: kim | September 29, 2006 9:02 AM

Reading the comments I'm surprised that people give infants Sudafed. It's pretty string stuff IMO.

Posted by: kim | September 29, 2006 9:04 AM

I have no problem with it being behind the counter. I have a problem with having to wait in line for twenty minutes to get the damn clerk just to hand me a box. If the grocery stores are going to have to put meds like this behind the counter, they're going to have to start being more efficient. Its faster for me to drive to the local drug store and get it there than it is to wait in line at the grocery store.

Posted by: anon | September 29, 2006 9:08 AM

I accidentally bought the new sudafed formula a few months back and it didn't work at all. I had to go back and buy the good stuff.

Fortunately I was still able to find a store selling the large packs and I bought several.

Posted by: Drew | September 29, 2006 9:10 AM

While I think this whole thing is just silly - if an addict wants his fix and someone is willing to supply, they will find ways to get around this law - I have to say that I did have my eyes opened about how bad the meth problem is.

I moved to an exurb of the Twin Cities about two years ago, and there are anti-meth ad campaigns *everywhere* - even in the Cities themselves. It's a huge problem out here that requires constant attention from the public sector.

So I sign the log book, chat with my pharmacist, and pick up the good stuff. If it's the alternative to an outright banning ephedrine and pseudoephedrine products, then I'll take it. Because for some reason, nothing - not even prescription drugs - cut through my sinus allergy headaches like Tylenol Allergy.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | September 29, 2006 9:27 AM

Oh, the Big Brother thing with the log books? I asked my pharmacist once how it worked.

She said basically they made a quick scan over the addresses/names to make sure you were under your weekly/monthly limit. And then the police only addressed the logs if they had suspicions about an address, otherwise, it was just too much info to peruse casually.

(At least around here - don't know how other jurisdictions are dealing with it.)

Posted by: Chasmosaur | September 29, 2006 9:31 AM

Since loyalty shoppers cards for stores such as Giant and CVS track purchases, I think we should let government officials have access to the records of ALL our purchases. And those surveillance cameras being installed so frequently should also be installed in our private homes, especially the bedrooms. I am depending on our government officials to make me a good person.

Posted by: 1984 | September 29, 2006 9:32 AM

This law has been in effect in our area for a while, and Meth is still widely available. The only difference is that the Meth is now imported, rather than made in local "labs". Is that progress? I think the law is over-the-top. I'm not sure, but suspect that I could buy an assault rifle without showing any ID, or signing any log book.

Posted by: JohnJ | September 29, 2006 9:43 AM

"A very small inconvenience to help in the fight against a horrible problem."

Don't know where this person lives, but presumably it's someplace outside the Beltway where there is some remaining semblance of retail customer service.

In my NW Washington neighborhood I'm lucky if there are one or two people working in the whole CVS, and getting one of them to fish something out of a cabinet for me can take 20 minutes.

So it's actually a *large* inconvenience for me to solve a "horrible problem" that has absolutely no effect on my life whatsoever.

All the more reason why we need a drastically smaller government, but I won't even get started with that ...

Posted by: Janine | September 29, 2006 9:50 AM

1. Only a small percentage of meth "cooks" use sudafed to make their meth. So the majority of people are put through more hoops because of a minority of a minority.

2. OTC means I can buy it right off the shelf without discussing it with someone.

3. Having to get it from behind the shelf means I take the box I am handed, I can't compare prices and amounts, etc. and get the best deal for my budget.

4. Right on about the customer service. In my grocery store, there aren't even enough people to work the checkstands so the lines are up the aisles. Who is working the counter to hand out the cough and cold meds?

5. Sadly, this law won't go away because no one wants to be seen as soft on drugs. Even to get rid of a law that is mostly symbolic without really solving the problem.

Posted by: ep | September 29, 2006 9:59 AM

It's actually easier to get cigarettes at the grocery store than sudafed, because only certain people are allowed to unlock the sudafed cabinet. Also, this particular law was part of the Patriot Act. What does controlling sudafed have to do with fighting terrorism?

Posted by: CP | September 29, 2006 9:59 AM

I welcome this move wholeheartedly! Meth has had as damaging an effect on huge swaths of America as the 1918 Flu epidemic. Some of you may be insulated from this but I can tell you objectively that easy access to ephedrine and pseudoephedrine has done more to create a "lost generation" than Vietnam did by many magnitudes.

Posted by: Gyre | September 29, 2006 10:07 AM

I hate this new law! I am an avid user of Claritin-D and applauded when it became OTC a few years ago. Now I can only buy one pack= 10 pills. So every 10 days, I need to go and buy more during the pharmacy hours. A better fix would be to make it a prescription product- then at least ppl with a bona fide use could get 30 pills at a time...another option that this new law doesn't addess is that if the meth user wants the pills that badly and has access to the internet...you can order them from Canada. IMHO this is another law that is burdensome to consumers and not a good "fix" to the country's drug problem.

Posted by: jrw158 | September 29, 2006 10:21 AM

If you want to make methamphetamine you need ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. Many other ingredients are optional and there are several ways to cook the drug, but that ingredient is essential. These state and federals laws, which make it difficult to buy the that drug in the quantities necessary for methamphetamine manufacture, have reduced drastically the number of methamphetamine labs. Given the extreme mobility of American society it is important to have this restriction regionally, and nationwide will be even better, because users cannot go to a nearby state and buy their ingredients. Yes, in states with this law, methamphetamine has begun to be imported from Mexico. However, buying the import costs much more than making it from household items you can get at WalMart, and slightly reduces the number of users. It is easier for law enforcement to go after drug importers than homegrown meth labs, which sprouted by the hundred in homes, trailers, motels, and car trunks across the West. Meth labs are in no sense laboratories, but are home-brew collections of bottles and tubing, filled with extremely volatile toxic chemicals. Fewer meth labs means fewer hazardous materials sites and explosions. As many labs are in homes, fewer labs means fewer children exposed to the toxic materials and manufacture itself. Methamphetamine is a viciously addictive drug which renders its users paranoid, violent and edgy -- it is not a harmless recreational drug. This law has saved, and will continue to save, hundreds of lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars in property and social services costs. For this return, having to buy your cold medicines from behind a counter seems a small price to pay.

Posted by: crimlaw | September 29, 2006 10:26 AM

Agreed that this is way over the top, making law-abiding citizens feel like criminals, etc.

Customer service at pharmacies in the greater DC area stinks. It used to be that the pharmacists owned their own drugstores and they CARED about customer service. Now the pharmacists are just cogs in the wheel of a giant corporation, and they are under all sorts of pressure to count X number of pills in two minutes and whatnot, and probably highly underpaid to boot, so they're probably not going to care about people with runny noses looking for their pseudophedrine. Indeed, they're probably going to LOOK DOWN on pseudophedrine buyers, as (a) they take time away from filling *real* prescriptions and (b) they are spreading cold germs everywhere.

The lousy pharmacy customer service around here drove me to buy my prescription cholesterol pills directly from my insurance plan's mail-order service. Unfortunately, this isn't an option when I suddenly come down with a cold.

Posted by: disgusted | September 29, 2006 10:34 AM

I'll have to agree the weaker substitutes don't work on my mega-watt head colds. However, asking for the stronger stuff from behind a counter is a small price to pay. I'm totally clueless about the procedures for making illegal drugs, moonshine, and bombs. The new restrictions about carrying innocent-looking stuff on airplanes really brought home the fact you can mix a couple innocent things together to make explosives. What kind of people think of things like that. I guess I'm too stupid to be a terrorist/crook/drug maker.

Posted by: Southern Maryland | September 29, 2006 10:38 AM

Sudafed's new phenylephrine formulation is called "Sudafed PE" -- I'm convinced the PE really stands for "placebo." It's totally useless.

IMO, the new law is just Congress doing their usual "Well, at least we're doing SOMETHING!" posturing -- that's much easier than actually taking steps to address the problem. Determined meth cooks will take advantage of loopholes or lax enforcement of the new law, buy Sudafed over the Internet from Canada, or just get pseudoephedrine in bulk from chemical supply houses. In the meantime the rest of us will sniffle and sneeze our way to the polling place and re-elect these morons...

Posted by: Dulles | September 29, 2006 10:45 AM

I must be a world's expert on allergies because I suffer from them every day of the year. There is never a time when I'm not plagued by sinus congestion. I do regulate my pseudoephedrine usage--I'm aware that too much of any drug is not good for human beings--but I'm here to tell you that phenylephrine doesn't do anything at all, so don't waste your money on it. It is not a substitute for pseudoephedrine.

So yes, I greatly resent this latest intrusion into my life by the feds for making my congested life even more difficult, just to make their jobs easier. How is it that the addiction problem of somebody I don't even know becomes my problem? People kill each other with knives but nobody's monitoring how many steak knives I buy (and I hope I'm not giving somebody with a badge any ideas here).

Anyone who says this is a small inconvenience doesn't comprehend the chronic misery of allergy sufferers, doesn't realize that we are now under the surveillance of our local cops just because we are afflicted, and has apparently not stood in a pharmacy line lately, waiting for the five people ahead of you to hand over their prescriptions, spell out their names, give their addresses, hand over their prescription cards, ask to speak to the pharmacist, complain about their medications, complain about their doctors, etc. etc. etc.
The focus of law enforcement must be on people who break laws, not all of the rest of us.

Posted by: allergyridden | September 29, 2006 10:49 AM

This is an enormous inconvenience for those with chronic allergies. My spouse & I use two different types of Sudafed for daytime and nighttime symptoms; now I cannot buy them at the same time because it puts me over my "daily limit". I agree that OTC means just that. My local CVS keeps these behind the normal register and the clerks there never seem to know what it is I am even asking for. My local Target keeps it in the Pharmacy so I have to make sure I am there during their hours, not store hours.

Posted by: inconvenienced | September 29, 2006 10:57 AM

This law has been in Tennessee for awhile now. When I was in college there (Go Vols!) I remember going to the Walgreens near campus and having to "sign out" for my cold meds. But it really didn't bother me too much because there is a HUGE meth problem in Tennessee and I saw it as the police trying to curb the problem. And the earlier poster was right about the log books. The police in Tennessee would scan them for people who they knew were users and look for familar names/addresses. It's helped a lot too.

Posted by: Melissa | September 29, 2006 10:59 AM

Now Meth comes from Mexico with the other drugs. All the feds managed to do was make money for the drug lords. Your tax dollars at work.

Posted by: Steve | September 29, 2006 11:03 AM

As someone with chronic allergies and sinus problems, I've found that having a refillable prescription from my doctor is the best route. The pseudoephedrine is cheaper (generic) this way, and I don't have to sign a book or show an ID. I just pick it up with the rest of my prescription allergy meds.

Posted by: Alexandria | September 29, 2006 11:07 AM

I am a fairly staunch conservative, and support things like the Patriot Act when it comes to catching REAL criminals, like terrorists.

But during a recent trip to CVS to get a 5-pack of Claritin-D for my wife, I took it out on the Pharmacy Clerk about the logbook.

It amazes me that you can buy alcohol, which in turn can be used by someone who drinks, drives, and crashes into someone and kills them, but no log book. You can buy cigarettes, which have ill effects to 100% of those who use them, but no log book.

But you'll be damned if you need 5 tablets of this stuff during allergy season. Because of a handful of methheads, you have to provide I'd, get all your info taken down and potentially looked at by outside sources.

As a conservative, I can believe I'm about to say this, but WHERE'S THE ACLU?

Posted by: Downright Conservative | September 29, 2006 11:09 AM

To Alergyridden-- I feel your pain. I take a prescription for GERD, an acid-reflux condition. My pharmacy will only issue 60 pills at a time, enough for one month. More than once they've denied me meds because I had 2 or 4 pills left and to save another trip back to the pharmacy I'd stop by and try to get a refill. No, no, no, I can't have a refill until the last pills were used. Like I'm going to overdose on acid-reflux meds?

BTW -- you can kill people with neckties, clothesline rope, letter openers, bleach, rat poison, and typewriters. I know of a man who had a 33-pound IBM Selectric dropped on his head. Agatha Christie could think of quite a few more. Where are the necktie and typewriter police when we need them?

Posted by: Southern Maryland | September 29, 2006 11:17 AM

Our family of 4 all have allergies and the real Sudafed has been a blessing. Now, there are often times when we don't have it because we didn't get to the store when the pharmacy was open, or my wife was worried she was approaching the limit. Do we really think this is going to cut down on meth labs?

Posted by: dsmac | September 29, 2006 11:18 AM

Inbetween stints in DC, I lived in Oregon around 2000-2002, where meth is at epidemic levels. What makes me particularly angry about this is that it won't make a dent in the meth trade -- as the Portland Oregonian pointed out in an award-winning series on the meth trade (I think it was called "Unnecessary Epidemic") the proportion of meth that's actually made in home labs by people crushing little sudafed pills and mixing them with other chemicals is just tiny -- most meth is made in mega-labs in rural california and uses ephedrine or psuedoephedrine imported by the barrel from Eastern Europe. So this is just a hassle for each of us, but not for the greater good -- really for no good at all. An empty political gesture that won't stem the meth trade at all.

As for my experience with the phenylephrine, not only did it not work for me, it cause painful stomach cramps. I tried it twice to be sure it really was the cause, and it happened both times. Didn't help my congestion at all, though.

Posted by: sct | September 29, 2006 11:19 AM

Wow, I guess it's good Sudafed doesn't do much for me, and I don't use it often, since discovering Mucinex. I've got horrible allergies.

However, I think this whole thing has given the drug companies--even the generic drug companies--cause to make things more expensive. You used to be able to buy a *bottle* of Actifed (contains Sudafed....) or Chlortrimeton (the quickest/best for immediate relief, according to my allergist) and now you can only buy blister packs, at a much higher per-dose cost.

Plus, the difficulty of getting to Wal-Mart/Target during pharmacy hours, or else paying the high prices at CVS, etc. :(

Posted by: Annapolis | September 29, 2006 11:21 AM

Another stupid law that does nothing but lets officials say they "addressed the problem".

The only thing worse is the people who type on the internet "Well, if it saves one person's life it's worth it".

...and let's not forget the biggest lie of the last 20 years "....it's to protect the children..."

Posted by: ASL | September 29, 2006 11:22 AM

Lisa's comments, above, are accurate - there is no long-lasting formula for the substitute ingredient. To the folks who say that this is a minor inconvenience - the formula substitute does not kill - but meth kills - let me state that the formula substitute can kill.

Many antihistamines, which cause drowsiness, will last four to six hours. The new ingredient lasts four hours. The decongestant effect of the old and new ingredient have an "anti-drowsiness" effect with will minimize the drowsiness of the antihistamine.

The new ingredient will wear off in four hours, while the drowsiness effect of many antihistamines are still in effect.

Think of this when you are driving. The new ingredient might actually kill.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 29, 2006 11:53 AM

There was an article in the Post sometime this week that says the effective dose of phenylephrine is 24 mg in tests, not the 10 mg being marketed. So no wonder it isn't doing anything for those of you who are actually following label directions.

I took two this morning and I'm mostly fine. The "don't take more than this" on most OTC drugs is about half of what it would take to do really nasty things to your body if you're not doing it on a daily basis for months. (and if you do have to do that, maybe it's time for another trip to the doctor to see about a stronger/different antihistimine.)

What, about ten years ago, was in Tavist-D and at what dosage? That stuff worked for me better than anything, but they stopped selling it after I'd thrown away the last box of the good stuff, so I never had a chance to look up if it caused cancer or something. The reformulated had pseudoephedrine.

Posted by: MB | September 29, 2006 12:08 PM

Why don't we get people who buy alchol to not only show the clerk a valid ID but sign a log which includes their address and phone number? So that the cops can come around their home and arrest them if they drink beyond the annual prescibed limit sit by the state. Frankly, I don't like government telling me what I can't and cannot do. Giving this authority to the government is yet another step in losing our individual rights. But as the reasoning goes, if you are not abusing drugs than why shouldn't you object to this.

Posted by: Manish Patel | September 29, 2006 12:22 PM

Have the feds gone too far? Absolutely! Members of my family have allergies that require a decongestant. However, only people capable of producing photo identification (how exactly does a 12-year old procure a government ID?) can purchase the medicine. I rue the day when we have to decide who gets relief and who has to suffer because of asinine limitations. The current limits restrict you to purchasing 75 12-hour pills every month. Two allergy-sufferers require: 2 (people) x 30 days x 2 pills/day = 120 pills. Plus, you have to visit the drugstore at least every other week. Nothing like planning your life around stupid laws.

Posted by: Peter Mork | September 29, 2006 12:23 PM

There are (conservatively) 100 million allergy sufferers in this country. If each of them spends an additional ten minutes a year to obtain allergy relief, that's 1 billion minutes wasted every year. A lifetime lasts about 40 million minutes. Therefore, 25 lives worth will be wasted each year because of this law. And I'm being extremely conservative here, I bet the actual number is closer to a hundred. Anyone think that a War on Drugs that has had no effect on usage rates for the last thirty years is going to have any impact this time?

I have never, not once, ingested an illegal drug. This law is idiotic.

Posted by: Walter Nissen | September 29, 2006 12:25 PM

Avoid the "CVS slow" and the logbook. Buy it online from Canada.

Posted by: M | September 29, 2006 12:33 PM

Hasn't sister publication Slate already done 4 or 5 stories about how the meth "epidemic" is being completely blown out of proportion?

Posted by: CortJstr | September 29, 2006 12:35 PM

Most of the postings here address the inconvenience of this new law, and that's understandable. Methamphetamine poses a very minor threat to the DC metro area, so we don't see the truly horrible toll it takes on communities that are affected. There are cities in the West and Midwest where the majority of children in foster care are there because their parents used meth. Police officers who have to don HazMat style suits before they respond to calls at suspected lab sites. Those who have failed to risk dying outright in a explosion or being permanently disabled by inhaling toxic fumes. In some states, thousands of people are in treatment and, sadly, meth is one of the hardest habits to kick.

For those who've said that this legislation doesn't address imports from Mexico and elsewhere--you're right. What this legislation addresses is the mom-n-pop labs. The small labs that people run in their homes, in their vans, in hotel rooms, in campers. Will this legislation eliminate the large-scale producers? Probably not. But it's gone a long way towards eliminating the small labs in states like Oklahoma, which was one of the pioneers in passing such laws. Fewer small labs means fewer children playing on floors and furniture contaminated with toxic chemicals, fewer children drinking juice stored in a refrigerator with their parents' precursors, and fewer children stripping out the insides of their lungs by breathing the air in their own homes.

I know this isn't happening right around here--we're lucky in that one respect. But it's happening in the Shenandoah Valley. It's happening in Pennsylvania and Ohio and West Virginia. If we can do anything to curtail this, shouldn't we at least try?

Posted by: TC | September 29, 2006 12:37 PM

Yeah, that whole log book thing has been around for a while now. I was absolutely flabbergasted when, several months ago, I was forced to fork over my ID to the CVS clerk to have my name address and anything else on my DL logged into that binder. And then I had to sign for it. It's an invasion of my privacy that I don't appreciate in the least.

It's bad enough that we're now being spied upon to determine what kinds of OTC cough and cold remedies we're buying, but knowing that the information also happens to be in the hands of national pharmacy chains also irks me. For folks that have deliberately avoided those "bonus" cards knowing that they only add to the amount of garbage you receive by mail, well, now you know that your corner drug store, or Target, or Safeway, or Giant, etc. etc. can get their hands on your information anyway.

I'd better get a get-well-soon card from the DEA and a $5.00 off coupon from CVS the next time I have a cold.

Posted by: sheesh | September 29, 2006 12:48 PM

TC,

I think the fudamental flaw in this law is that it does not account for the desperation of a meth addict, or the determination of a DIY meth formulator to obtain the OTC stuff. To them, dealing with the purchase limit is simply a speed-bump. They'll get as much as they can at one place, and move along to the next. What, these stores, for as retailers actually sell the stuff, are gonna compare notes at the end of the day, week, or month to find out who is buy how much of what? The very idea that the folks enforcing this would do anything more than a quick scan of a single store's log is absurd. It won't stop those who just go store to store, district to district form obtaining the meds, and it needlessly invades the privacy of the rest of us.

Like a lot of other rules our governments have put in place recently, this too is simply a facade to make it appear that something vital is being done to protect us. Don't buy into that illusion for a second.

Posted by: sheesh | September 29, 2006 12:55 PM

If this change was mandated by federal law shouldn't the provisions of the Privacy Act apply? In addition to the notification required by that act (mandatory/voluntary, distribution, etc.) wouldn't there be requirements for safe keeping of that information and the right of an individual to review that information? If the "log" is a paper log where one just adds their personal information to a prior list of personal information wouldn't that be a novel way for a stalker to get someone's name and address by waiting for someone to buy a product and then view that information by then buying a controlled product?

Posted by: likesprivacy | September 29, 2006 1:01 PM

You can't even get Sudafed in the old formulation any more. At least not where I used to get it (Costco, Giant, Safeway).

And when Sudafed changed their formula, the generics did the same thing so you can't get the generic (old) sudafed anymore.

My husband prefers Drixoral which still contains pseudoephedrine. At Costco, not only is it behind the counter, but they need a supervisor to ring it up. None of the other drugs that still have pseudoephedrine in it are treated that way.

And does anyone other than me remember when Costco cracked down on sudafed a few years ago, requiring signing a log book and showing id, but then it went back on the shelf sometime later, and now we just don't have sudafed anymore.

(I've still got a small stash of the old stuff that I use with advil (generic) for my sinus headaches.) I don't know what I'll do after I use it up.

Posted by: Rockville | September 29, 2006 1:16 PM

I haven't tried to buy Sudafed recently, even though I live in one of the highest-pollen count areas in the country. I know I'm one of the lucky ones. However, I HAVE realized that you have to ask a grocery store employee behind the customer service counter for razors and razor blade refills! I can't say whether this is true of all grocery stores in Atlanta, but this particular one (Kroger) is near a private college campus in a nice section of town. When I asked the store clerk about this, he told me that "too many people were buying them for the *wrong* reasons"! As other posters have pointed out, so many things can be used for illicit, inhumane, and simply dumb activities, but there has to be a limit to what is "controlled" or not. What's next? Butter?

Posted by: Atlanta | September 29, 2006 1:53 PM

I haven't tried to buy Sudafed recently, even though I live in one of the highest-pollen count areas in the country. I know I'm one of the lucky ones. However, I HAVE realized that you have to ask a grocery store employee behind the customer service counter for razors and razor blade refills! I can't say whether this is true of all grocery stores in Atlanta, but this particular one (Kroger) is near a private college campus in a nice section of town. When I asked the store clerk about this, he told me that "too many people were buying them for the *wrong* reasons"! As other posters have pointed out, so many things can be used for illicit, inhumane, and simply dumb activities, but there has to be a limit to what is "controlled" or not. What's next? Butter?

Posted by: Atlanta | September 29, 2006 1:55 PM

I know this isn't happening right around here--we're lucky in that one respect. But it's happening in the Shenandoah Valley. It's happening in Pennsylvania and Ohio and West Virginia. If we can do anything to curtail this, shouldn't we at least try?

Those people aren't my problem. My physical pain and suffering is. Yet I am treated like a criminal because *they* are doing something illegal.

Nice country we live in.

Posted by: sufferingToday | September 29, 2006 2:44 PM

Does anyone else comparison shop while buying pseudoephedrine products? I compare price, how many in the package, how long they last, etc. Which is virtually impossible to do when they're behind the pharmacist's counter.

Posted by: mizbinkley | September 29, 2006 3:08 PM

Utter nonsense by idiots in the government. OK, maybe I'm being too mild about them. They are **flagrant** idiots. Sudafed doesn't work well for me, but Actifed does. But you can't get it in the drugstore, even at the pharmacy counter; the restrictions have caused the makers to limit Actifed to prescription only. Well, done, citizen bureaucrats! Let us all die of phlegm, but restrict meth users to drugs imported from Mexico.

Posted by: Michael Ward | September 29, 2006 3:13 PM

Am fine with putting it behind the counter. But I draw the line at actually signing a logbook. Why not make it available only by prescription then? Besides, I am not convinced anyone is looking at these logs to see if you've exceeded your limit. Are all the logs co-ordinated? Or could I exceed my limit at CVS A, move on to CVS B, RiteAid C etc? A true waste of time.

Posted by: Bart | September 29, 2006 3:40 PM

This is not only over the line - it's also ridiculously stupid, for a number of reasons.

1. It does nothing to address the causes of drug use, only the possible source for a minority of producers.
2. It pushes more money to organized crime and terrorist organizations in eastern Europe and Mexico. Though some "mom 'n' pop" labs will fold, causing a drop in supply, demand will not decrease; bigger organizations (that are usually associated with other, more heinous crimes) will step into the market, or step up their own production.
3. Alternately, small labs will import more from Canada - thereby forcing Canadians to subsidize our drug problem.
4. This fails to recognize the fact that a number of the areas where meth use is high already have state and local laws like this - and producers in those areas have already figured out workarounds.

I won't even mention the idea of treating the stuffy-headed innocent as though they're criminals. Other people have said it better.

Posted by: yeah, it's dumb. | September 29, 2006 3:45 PM

We're just getting what we deserve, as Mencken would put it. Blame the War on Drugs, the Great Society, the New Deal, etc., etc., ad nauseam.

Posted by: S. H. | September 29, 2006 4:01 PM

My husband bought the pseudo-Sudafed by mistake last week. It was a disaster. Not only did it not help with his congestion, it had horrible side effects, causing jitteriness and unease. OTC drug companies shouldn't be allowed to advertise drugs as equivalent when they aren't.

Posted by: Jonquil | September 29, 2006 4:21 PM

Well, I really like the comment "Those people aren't my problem. My physical pain and suffering is. Yet I am treated like a criminal because *they* are doing something illegal."

I'm allergic to Sudafed. It gives me red spots like measles all over my body. So, I suppose I'm quite justified, by the lights of the poster above, to say that you are all whiney babies and your suffering isn't my problem because I can't take Sudafed anyway.

Guess what, folks? Meth is EVERYONE's problem. It's coming here ... it's only a matter of time. Wait till the first meth-head holds you up for drug money. Wait until the house next door to you is a meth lab and the DEA and EPA have to come in hazmat suits to clean it up. For cryin' out loud -- in Kanawha County, WV, they had seminars for SENIOR CITIZENS on how to recognize a meth lab -- and they had to add more seminars because the ones they had were full! In fact, you are all whiney babies -- get over your belly-button-itis! You are NOT the center of the universe, and if inconveniencing you makes ONE kid safer, then it's worth it.

Posted by: Arlington | September 29, 2006 4:51 PM

So many people on here keep saying that taking these drugs and putting them behind the counter does not have an affect on meth. You guys are absolutely wrong about that and you need to get your facts straight. Oklahoma was one of the first states to put them behind the counter and it had a drastic affect on meth in the state. Meth is almost always made from ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 29, 2006 5:27 PM

Why restrict only drugs to make meth? Everything in all stores should be behind the counter - You should be required to show your National ID to buy or sell anything. Armed feds should be checking the ID and filling your shopping bags. All info should go into a computer and other agents should call you daily to tell you what you should and shouldn't buy, what to eat and not to eat, when to get up and go to bed, who to marry, how many kids and so on. Oh wait the govt already does some of that. Soon "for your own safety" agents will be on every corner checking your ID. Sound like the Nazis or USSR? Stop giving up your rights, vote out these idiots who are selling you down the river into their totalitarian future before it is too late.

Posted by: None | September 29, 2006 6:00 PM

Well, I just went to see my doctor over a cold I have. She told me to buy some muscinx D, which is behind the counter. The clerk asked for ID. I hand it over, and she swipes my DL into the computer system.

Honestly, usually I'm not worried about Big Brother.. but they just logged my ENTIRE DL into their system?

What the heck is going on?

Posted by: Sick | September 29, 2006 6:18 PM

Meth is everyone's problem. It's the taxpayers dollar that pays for meth lab cleanup - be it in DC, Pennsylvania, Iowa, or, guess what, Mexico. Have you all looked at DEA's website recently? What about caring for the kids who are found at meth labs? Who pays for foster care? The taxpayer. Sure the problem was worst in the Midwest, but when those states restricts the pseudoephedrine, the cooks just drove all over the country to buy the pseudoephedrine. I don't live in an area with meth labs, but I would go into Wal-Mart and see empty boxes of Sudafed on the shelves. The cooks would come in and steal the pills and leave the empty boxes right there.

For the allergy sufferers, decongestants do not help the allergic reaction. The antihistamines and steroid nasal sparys are best for that. The decongestants just dry you up. They treat a symptom, not the cause of the problem.

There's obviously a lot of education that needs to occur. Meth is my problem, your problem, our problem. If the meth lab were in your back yard, you wouldn't mind the minor inconvenience. If these laws weren't put into effect, in a few years, the meth labs would have been in your backyard.

Posted by: Every Woman | September 29, 2006 7:18 PM

so what are we going to make potting soil illegal so people can't grow weed?

Posted by: angry | September 29, 2006 10:10 PM

Restricting Sudafed sales has already resulted in cheaper, stronger meth being shipped in from Mexico. The War on Drugs in this country is such a sick joke.

I've tried the Sudafed "substitute". Not only was it barely effective at treating my cold symptoms, but it made me nauseous as well! Even the "old formula" stuff sold behind the counter has been changed, and just isn't as effective as it used to be.

Posted by: Tirade | September 30, 2006 12:18 AM

EveryWoman wrote: "For the allergy sufferers, decongestants do not help the allergic reaction. The antihistamines and steroid nasal sparys are best for that. The decongestants just dry you up. They treat a symptom, not the cause of the problem." Actually the antihistamines dry you up and the decongestants get the mucus out. They both treat a symtom.
I highly resent having to wait in line at a time that is convenient for the pharmacy just for them to tell me that they are out of the store brand and would I like the more expensive brand. Or maybe they're out of both. I'm also p-oed that my son's sudafed counts against me. Now I can't even find the children's sudafed. I agree with everyone that this is just a "look-at-what-we're-doing" measure that doesn't really solve the problem. Drugs have been around for quite a while. The American consumer should not have to suffer because of CRIMINALS. The new stuff doesn't work and I for one am sick of this crappy law. Those of you who think that we should just sit back and accept this should just shut up. True allergy sufferers are p***ed and it's time we stood up to our congressmen/women and had something done about this law!

Posted by: madwomaningeorgia | October 1, 2006 11:09 PM

Regarding Lisa's question about infant Sudafed (way back this morning), my understanding is that the liquid formulations are still OK to be sold without the restrictions. I've heard that the meth-makers can only use the pill form to make their wretched product.

However, I think that the practice depends on the establishment. My state implemented an anti-Sudafed law a year and a half ago. My drugstore takes the hyper-cautious approach and puts the kiddie-Sudafed behind the counter, but my supermarket has it out on the shelves. Go figure.

As for the restrictions, I don't like it but I can live with it. I'd never bought more than a box at a time, unless there was a 2-for-1 sale. And if I were to pay by credit card, they'd have all the info on me anyway...

Posted by: AnnieJo | October 2, 2006 4:31 PM

Reading through these comments can make those of us in Oregon laugh. Earlier this year, Oregon made pseudophedrine products available by prescription only. Just deal with it, it's a minor inconvienience to get the products from behind the counter with an ID. It could be worse.

Posted by: Laughing in Oregon | October 2, 2006 4:59 PM

good. restrict them. here in oregon, most of identity thefts are done by those addicted to meth. neglected children, aggresive behavior, criminal un-insured health costs etc.. can't get your favorite anti-sniffle product? you are so selfish!

Posted by: howard | October 2, 2006 5:53 PM

If you need to learn how all the different types of cold medicines work, look at this site. http://www.webmd.com/content/article/61/67462

It's true that putting pseudoephedrine behind the counter won't save us from meth, but it will save us from meth labs in this country. If cocaine and heroin were processed in the country too, we'd see a lot more complaining because of all the property that would be damaged and the cleanup our public servants would be doing. Search CDC's website and see all the public health issues caused by meth labs.

You can buy 3.6 grams of pseudoephedrine a day or 9 grams every 30 days. Claritin-D 24-hour contains 240 mg of pseudoephedrine per tablet. Claritin-D 12-hour contains 120 mg of pseudoephedrine per tablet and is to be taken twice a day. (I actually cannot sleep at night if I take it.) You can actually buy a 10-count box of the 24-hr or a 20-count box of the 12-hr on 3 consecutive days or once every 10 dyas. That's a 30 day supply. Who takes more than that???

If you buy generic loratadine (as much as you want) and then generic pseudoephedrine in the 30-mg tablets separately, you can actually buy 100 of the pseudoephedrine tablets at a time. Remind me, what is everyone complaining about? Inconvenience?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2006 6:47 PM

"What does controlling sudafed have to do with fighting terrorism?"

The terrorists want to capitalize on the "drowsiness" effects the drug has to catch us when we're asleep.

Seriously though- there aren't enough people working in stores at these low-wage jobs! I mean, the "meat man" at the local Giant had the day off yesterday so I couldn't buy anything from behind the glass! What? They only have one person handling all the meat? Same can be said of meds, check-out lanes, etc...

Posted by: Chris | October 2, 2006 8:27 PM

The feds (and the stores, many of which acted before this was required) have gone way too far. There is no justification for invading the privacy of cold and allergy sufferers. This also means that for practical purposes many people can't get the medicine at all, and just have to suffer, due to the limited hours of most stores' pharmacies.

I'm voting against every single idiot that voted for this legislation, and I don't care anymore who ends up in office as a result. There is no excuse for this nonsense.

This has nothing to do with targeting meth makers (who do not buy a box or two at a time at Wal-Mart anyway) and everything to do with invading people's lives and getting them used to a Big Brother style of government.

Posted by: Ella | October 4, 2006 8:52 AM

To Downright Conservative were you actually serious about "taking it out" on the poor pharmacy clerk because THEY WERE DOING THEIR JOB?

Most stores keep them behind the counter, get in line, wait your turn, buy your meds, and sign the log book. Why do you think service has gotten slow? Maybe because two idiots in front of you are complaining to a lowly store clerk who is only making them sign a book because they were told if they didn't they'd get fired.

If you have a problem talk to a manager, don't take it out on a clerk they aren't paid for that.

Posted by: Sheesh | October 4, 2006 9:35 AM

A stupid law, by stupid legislators. Let Darwin take care of the meth addicts and manufacturers.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2006 11:53 AM

I have been using Actifed for over 20 years. It's replacement doesn't work. I can't even find it behind the counter. Must I get a slip from a Doctor?

The generic Actifed at CVS use to cost $5 for a bottle of 100. Now is over $5 for 24 tablets of the new formulation.

Drug makers are crying all the way to the bank. I guess they have to make up for the down turn in Meth sales.

Posted by: Paul | October 5, 2006 7:54 PM

The CVS, Walgreens, Wal Mart, and grocery stores in Houston have all stopped carrying Actifed and most of the other medications, as well. I'm so angry about it that I will NOT vote for any member of the government who helped pass this Nazi law. All I want to do is sleep at night without having mucus sliding down my throat. That's it. That's all I want. That's not too much to ask.

As for the billions and billions of meth addicts... do a little research, please. About 4.5% of the population is on meth. So, it makes perfect sense that 94.5% of the population is punished due to the abuse of 4.5 %. That's democracy, right?

Also, most of the meth labs are in southern California and Mexico.

My question is... where's the money? There has to be money tied to this, somewhere. States get extra money from the federal government for the "War on Drugs"? Drug companies are getting federal money for NOT making the drugs? I do NOT believe that this law was passed without someone, somewhere making money off it, somehow. Where's the money link?

Posted by: Debbie | October 8, 2006 10:32 PM

You guys are hilarious! I, too think it's ridiculous that the rest of us should suffer because of some people who would rather be "blotto" in lieu of working out their issues. Que sera sera.

Posted by: Lizzy | October 9, 2006 4:45 PM

You guys are hilarious! I, too think it's ridiculous that the rest of us should suffer because of some people who would rather be "blotto" in lieu of working out their issues. Que sera sera.

Posted by: Lizzy | October 9, 2006 4:45 PM

Everyone in my family suffers from sinus headaches caused by allergies. The greatest remedy is Sudafed Non-Drying Gel Tablets. I soon learned to adapt to the pharmacy hours, ID, restricted quantity, etc., HOWEVER, I CAN'T EVEN FIND IT ANYMORE (and I live in Los Angeles!). All of my usual stores (Target, RiteAid, Longs, Walgreens, etc) have stopped carrying it. I even called Pfizer and their customer service rep. reads the local vendors off the computer screen. When I inform them that none of the stores have the product, they are totally clueless and unable to help beyond their computer screen!!!!

Posted by: Mandy | October 9, 2006 10:28 PM

This is another typical government deal that has taken what would have been a decent idea and taken it to the extremes. A good government is LESS government. I hope all those SOBs up there in Washington suddenly become allergic and have to stand in line with 20 degenerates at the local chain pharmacy with the degenerate kids running over them to wait for their ONE BOX of 24 tab 4 hr Actifed. Big gov't... you suck as usual. Once again, look to the Feds to make a disasterous nucience of themselves.

Patrick,
OKC, OK

Posted by: Patrick | October 10, 2006 12:08 AM

I'm an allergy sufferer, and during certain seasons I basically live on Sudafed. And it's annoying, at times, to have to spend five minutes writing in a logbook while your nose is running.

However, I also live in Kentucky, which has a meth problem like you wouldn't believe. And, frankly, as a dyed-in-the-wool liberal and staunch supporter of the bill of rights, as far as I'm concerned, this law is just fine with me.

This law is not lookng for Person X, who bought three boxes one month instead of two, or Person Y, who buys a single box every week. Big Brother is not looking for you, or for me.

Big Brother is looking for Person Z, who buys five boxes a week, from every pharmacy and grocery store in town--and then their friends do the same, and then they send their kids in after that. And when they get the sudafed, they take it home and blend it with battery acid and farm fertilizer, cook it down to powder, and snort it up their nose. Their kids are sleeping in the bedroom next to the kitchen where hazardous fumes are eating the paint off the walls (if they aren't actually burning the walls down--fertilizer is used in bombs, remember?).

Crystal meth is trememdously addictive, induces violence, hyperactivity, and paranoia, and essentially eats away at your brain. Pharmacists I've talked to have told me stories about these people--guys who come to the counter with eleven boxes of sudafed and a pack of gum, or three customers in a row holding Sudafed and paying with the same credit card. There are parts of the state where crystal meth is everywhere--everyone knows someone who's doing it, and the stories are rampant.

Forgive me, but a minor--and yes, it really is minor, compared with the alternatives--inconvenience is NOT going to kill you. My allergies can wait five minutes, if that poor kid living in the toxic house can be given a better chance.

Posted by: KY Lady | October 10, 2006 7:30 PM

I asked the Wal-Mart pharmacists, and they said that in the year and a half they have had their books, nobody has been there to check them.

It's total BS and it really ticks me off.

Why don't they just go after the meth makers and dealers and throw them in jail? Prosecute them with the existing laws and stop punishing ME for THEIR actions!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 13, 2006 2:55 PM

I wouldn't mind so much if the Sudafed were behind the pharmacy counter at CVS. The pharmacists and clerks are very good there. But it's up behind the checkout counter at the front, and there are never enough clerks. And actually they have to get a manager to open the case. So it's not just the log book that's annoying, it's location.

Posted by: Alison | October 16, 2006 10:31 AM

I agree that this is a tremendous problem!
At the very least, couldnt we buy 30, 60, or 90 Claritin d 24 hour with a script ?
Once they have our ID, why are we limited to 10 or 15 ? The meth head is very unlikely to get several relatives to get scripts.

Posted by: Jim | October 20, 2006 8:26 AM

This just proves that the government is losing the war on drugs, when a drug used by a miniscule minority of the population (99.2%) inconvenience and potential harm to our health.

It's really just time that we give up this pointless and pathetic war on drugs. War on drugs - more like war on kids.

Posted by: Yusuf | October 25, 2006 1:58 PM

I work in a CVS in Phoenix AZ and I find it an inconvence to go out of my way to log this is a book that noone ever looks at, but the customer complaining to me about it is the most annoying thing about it! We did not make the law we are just doing our job so please we have heard it all don't complain to us about your thoughts about the law, your just wasting our time!!!!!!!

Posted by: pharmtech | October 27, 2006 11:53 PM

I suffer from asthma and have been using over-the-counter asthma medications for 20 years (they work better for me than the perscription stuff). It really doesn't affect my life much provided I medicate once or twice a day. However, there are occasional bad days where the medicine is absolutely essential. Lately, I've noticed that there is less of the product in stock and one brand seems to have disappeared altogether. Some pharmacies have been keeping the medicine behind the counter for the past year or so. I understand the problem and I didn't have an issue with asking for it at the pharmacy. However, yesterday I purchased a box of Primatene and I had to submit my driver's license and sign the log book. Absolutely ridiculous! I could understand if I wanted to buy 20 boxes of the stuff, but this is just overkill. The thing that's really annoying is that this was apparently done with no discussion with or notification to the public. It's a mandate from a bureaucracy that's been imposed strictly for the purpose of extending its own authority. I'd really appreciate if government would stop "helping" me so much.

Posted by: BC951 | October 30, 2006 9:14 AM

I too am having trouble finding non-drying sinus. My wife uses it to ward off sinus infection. One drug store carries the SunMark brand. I am going to try to order it by mail. There is a company that has a mail in form online, you have to send a copy of your drivers license and one other form of ID, we'll see how that goes.

With competition for shelf space in the pharmacy, I bet it will be a lot harder to find what you need.

The pharmacist at Dana Drug in Burbank CA said if you get a prescription, you can buy as much as you need.

Posted by: Ira | November 3, 2006 3:19 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company