- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Laws that restrict access to some over-the-counter cold medications that can be used to make an illegal stimulant are hurting sales for the entire drug class, a new report says.

In the past several years, states have enacted laws to place cold, cough and allergy drugs containing pseudoephedrine, a key component for making methamphetamine, behind pharmacy counters.

But the measures, designed to make it tough for consumers to make methamphetamine, are cutting into sales, said the report released Monday by Chicago market research company Information Resources Inc.

“Manufacturers are struggling with what products to make and ship because there is no way to forecast this year’s cough and cold season with all these state laws that are coming,” said Bob Doyle, author of the report.

In addition to state laws, 10 retailers have said they have or will voluntarily limit the sale of the medicines storewide. Those retailers are Target, Wal-Mart, Kmart, CVS, Walgreens, ShopKo, Rite Aid, Longs Drug Stores, Albertsons and Medicine Shoppe.

Sales for drugs such as Claritin-D and Sudafed fell 16 percent in Oklahoma in the 12 months after the state restricted the sale of those drugs to pharmacy counters in April 2004, the report said. Nationally, sales of those drugs climbed 1.3 percent between April 2004 and April 2005.

During that period, sales for cold medicines that did not contain pseudoephedrine surged 24 percent in Oklahoma, while the drug class dropped 4.5 percent in national sales, the study said.

Strict mandates in the law were partly to blame for the sales shift, said Mr. Doyle, senior vice president for Information Resources’ Healthcare Solutions Group. The laws also have altered the typical shopping process. Shoppers now have to request their products at pharmacy counters instead of browsing store aisles.

Illinois, which passed a similar but less stringent law in January, has seen little impact on the drug class so far, Mr. Doyle said.

The state’s retailers also did not fully comply with the law and had an “intense” allergy season during the first three months of 2005, the report said.

Jim Wilson, president of Wilson Health Information LLC, said the sales impact has been limited. “There are those consumers who will still get these medicines from foreign countries or over the Internet, so the laws are not going to stop it totally,” said Mr. Wilson, who runs the New Hope, Pa., company that surveys consumers on pharmaceutical trends.

The study comes as Congress considers a bill that would regulate the cold and sinus medications to be sold only at pharmacy counters and in limited quantities.

A Senate committee has scheduled a hearing on the bill for later this month.

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