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Editorial: Doctor’s ‘note’ call for cold and allergy remedies too much

3.31.16 –  Journal-Courier

Chances are you’ve experienced it before.

Allergy season starts and your nose turns into a clogged highway at rush hour.

Or the communal office space becomes a pool of muck that spreads germs from one person to another and another and then you.

For millions of cold and allergy sufferers, the solution is to hit the self-medication aisle of the local drugstore in the hope of relief, perhaps even a good night’s sleep.

That could change. Some legislators believe over-the-counter medications containing pseudoephedrine — that stuff that works really well to shrink the blood vessels in the nose that cause congestion or helps lessen the hack of a cough — should require a prescription from a doctor.

For the past few years, pseudoephedrine-containing medications such as Sudafed and some Advil and generic mixes have been moved from the store shelves to behind the counter as a way to fight against smurfers — the street name for methamphetamine makers. Pseudoephedrine or the much-harder-to-acquire ephedrine provide a great base for meth production.

In theory, making it harder to get will cut down the rampant meth problem in the United States.

In reality, it won’t.

The Combat Methamphetamine Act was enacted in 2005 (that’s the one that put certain over-the-counter medications behind the counter). It put stringent controls on the quantity of pseudoephedrine-containing drugs that could be bought and allowed the notification of authorities for suspicious purchases.

Officials point to some initial success in seeing meth-related arrests decrease. But the illicit-drug makers became smarter and adapted to the changes.

Now, after a two-year drop in the global seizures of methamphetamine, the problem returned even stronger in 2008 and has skyrocketed. Meth seizures have risen from just under 30 tons in 2008 to about 90 tons by 2011. Other amphetamine-type drugs have also gained a foothold, going from 59 tons seized in 2008 to 123 tons by 2011.

Drug producers have one-upped whatever laws can be created with little slowdown.

Oregon was an early convert in the pseudoephedrine fight. The state has required a prescription for some over-the-counter medications since 2006. While drug officials tout a drop in the numbers of labs, an Office of National Drug Control Policy report says there is still a “sustained high level of methamphetamine availability” in Oregon, just as there is nationwide.

Perhaps a lack of confidence in solving anything is the reason a majority of Illinoisans are opposed to such a law. A poll by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association showed 62 percent of voters in the state are against a law to require a doctor’s prescription to buy over-the-counter cold and allergy medications. Many of them cite the added expense of an additional doctor’s visit, plus the time off from work to go to the doctor.

The trade association Consumer Healthcare Products Association represents many over-the-counter medication makers, so there is an understandable bias in its continued fight against such legislation.

Read more here.