A new federal law goes into effect Saturday that requires the drug pseudoephedrine, be taken off store shelves. You’ll still be able to buy it… but there’s more rigmarole. So now what you do, instead of getting a box of medication, you get a piece of paper, you walk up to the counter, and you ask for the medication behind the counter. And you’re only allowed 3.6 grams of pseudoephedrine a month.
A Sudafed tablet is 60 milligrams; that’s 60 tablets a month per person and you’ll have to sign for it and show your ID. “It’s the exact same product that was on the shelf it’s the same price it’s available without a prescription and it’s still safe and effective,” says Jan Engle, a pharmacist at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
There are still decongestants on the shelves, but there is a difference. It’s a different chemical; the “PE” in Sudafed PE, for example a different medication than pseudoephedrine. “Right now what you’ll find on the shelves are phenylephrine products, however consumers need to know you need to take these meds every four hours, they’re very short acting, if they need long acting relief you have to go behind the counter and ask the pharmacist,” Engle says.
The reason for the law: pseudoephedrine is the primary ingredient in producing methamphetamine. Individual states that have already restricted the sale of pseudoephedrine to behind the counter has triggered a reduction in the number of meth labs. In fact, possession of pseudoephedrine for the purpose of manufacturing meth is a felony.
Putting these drugs behind the counter will prevent this misuse as well as reduce the number of thefts. It’s a lot of concern and attention over a drug intended for the sniffles. But there are those in the drug industry who are not supportive of this move, especially those who produce products containing pseudoephedrine. That’s because by making purchasing the product more difficult, it could affect sales in the end.