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Editorial: Wise Cold, Allergy Suffers Oppose Prescription Requirement

3.31.16 –  Dispatch-Argus

Illinois lawmakers still hoping to require doctor prescriptions for some over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines, should take a look at the results of an industry trade association poll.

A large majority of the Illinois voters polled in the Anzalone Liszt Grove Research survey commissioned by Consumer Healthcare Products Association, opposed laws that would require a doctor’s prescription to purchase medicines which contain pseudoephedrine. Among the most popular are Sudafed and Advil Cold and Sinus.

Of the 753 Illinois voters polled between Feb. 11-16, 62 percent said they are against such laws, 40 percent strongly so, while just 27 percent supported them. Reasons for opposition included unnecessary inconvenience and the costs incurred through unnecessary doctor’s appointments, time off work and the addition of more co-pays. Those new costs would be added onto the already higher co-pays and out-of-pocket costs many already are experiencing in the health plans they purchased on the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Industry officials also warn such laws would make it harder to get doctor’s appointments. “In states like Illinois that are facing a physician shortage, consumers may not be able to schedule an appointment soon enough,” says Carlos Gutierrez, senior director and head of state government affairs for CHPA.

Too many appointments?

He cited a recent analysis by Avalere Health, which indicated that “a prescription requirement for readily available medicines containing PSE would create an additional 41,852 new doctor visits in the state of Illinois.” The current complement of Illinois physicians would have a hard time accommodating that new demand, critics say.

We suspect that for at least some Illinoisans, the cost and inconvenience associated with a prescription requirement seem to be worth it IF they believed this new mandate would hit hard its purported target: those who use the ingredients in those tablets to make methamphetamine.

But there is little evidence to suggest it will, and plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that it won’t reduce the number of meth cookers or significantly impact the meth epidemic.

Consider, for example, laws which moved cold and allergy products containing PSE’s behind the counter, limited the number of them purchased and required photo identification to buy. When first instituted, such inconveniences DID reduce meth production. But that didn’t last long as producers found suppliers in the Internet in places such as Mexico.

Rob Karr is president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and a critic of prescription only requirement. He said the Avalere Health study “shows that it is an irrefutable fact that a prescription requirement for cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine would only aggravate the physician shortage in our state and hurt Illinois consumers for no benefit.”

How much will it cost?

The added cost might not seem that big a deal, but as we noted the last time Springfield considered such legislation, even if your co-pay for a doctor’s visit is just $10 or $20, that’s far from the only cost of getting a doctor involved in treating something that 15 million cold sufferers have managed to handle every year without licensed medical care. There’s lost time from work, too; assuming your boss will even let you go during office hours.

Read more here.