- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Pharmaceutical companies increasingly are replacing cold medications containing pseudoephedrine with reformulated products in an effort to keep their remedies on store shelves for the current cold and flu season.

State and local lawmakers in the past two years have begun restricting sales of over-the-counter drugs containing pseudoephedrine, a popular nasal decongestant, because the ingredient can be used to make the illegal narcotic methamphetamine.

In response, Procter & Gamble Co. in November started selling a reformulated version of its Vicks NyQuil syrup and DayQuil and NyQuil liquid caps, replacing pseudoephedrine with acetaminophen and dextromethorphan.

The Cincinnati consumer-products company plans to phase out pseudoephedrine from its cold medicines by 2007, said spokesman Ashoke Mitra, who would not disclose any sales numbers.

“We still believe pseudoephedrine is a safe product,” he said.

McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals, a division of New Brunswick, N.J., health products company Johnson & Johnson, is reformulating its Tylenol Cold & Flu products.

The company for the past year has been eliminating pseudoephedrine for “a wide variety of ingredients,” said spokeswoman Kathy Fallon. She would not say whether sales of pseudoephedrine cold medicines have been affected this flu season.

No date is set for when the reformulated products will reach store shelves, she said.

So far, at least 37 states have restricted consumer access to the medications, which has included putting them behind pharmacy or customer service counters at stores, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Additionally, retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp., CVS Corp., Rite Aid Corp., Giant Food LLC and Safeway Inc., have begun limiting access to or have removed them.

New York drug giant Pfizer Inc. in February introduced a newer version of its Sudafed cold medicine, called Sudafed PE, which substituted pseudoephedrine with phenylephrine.

“Our intention in launching it was to have an alternative available for consumers,” said spokeswoman Erica Johnson, adding that the industry early last year sensed sales of pseudoephedrine products would be restricted.

Phenylephrine, a precursor to pseudoephedrine, probably will be the big ingredient for the cold-and-flu drug market this season, said Amy Kasza, an industry writer and researcher for Hamacher Resource Group LLC, a Milwaukee consulting firm for the retail health care market.

“I don’t think you will find a big public outcry in the change, but that remains to be seen,” Mrs. Kasza said.

But Wyeth Consumer Healthcare, a division of Madison, N.J., drug company Wyeth, is not certain whether it will replace the pseudoephedrine in its Robitussin and Dimetapp products, said spokesman Francis Sullivan.

“We are not sure if or when we are going to switch to phenylephrine,” he said. “That’s what everyone is obviously switching to.”

Wyeth currently sells the pseudoephedrine versions of its cold medications and other forms that contain ingredients such as dextromethorphan or acetaminophen.



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