Seven in 10 asthma, allergy, cold, cough and flu sufferers oppose laws that would require over-the-counter medicines containing pseudoephedrine to be available by prescription only, according to a survey by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).


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Study: Patients oppose Rx for OTCs with pseudoephedrine

January 24th, 2011

WASHINGTON – Seven in 10 asthma, allergy, cold, cough and flu sufferers oppose laws that would require over-the-counter medicines containing pseudoephedrine to be available by prescription only, according to a survey by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

AAFA said Monday that the online poll by Harris Interactive, which was supported by a grant from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) and surveyed over 2,000 asthma, allergy, cold, cough, and flu sufferers who bought nonprescription medicine for their condition, shows that patients want lawmakers to consider alternate measures that won't force law-abiding patients who rely on these remedies to get a prescription.

Pseudoephedrine is the key ingredient in methamphetamine, a rising drug abuse problem that has garnered increased attention from federal, state and local lawmakers and law enforcement authorities trying to stem the tide of its production.

"Taking away patient freedom by requiring prescriptions for important over-the-counter medications is not a solution to the meth problem," Mike Tringale, vice president of external affairs at AAFA, said in a statement. "Based on our recent survey of allergy, asthma, cold, cough and flu patients, we recognize that timely access to these medicines is critical for people. In fact, prescription medication abuse itself is a bigger problem than ever and continues to rise, which proves that we need to find better law-enforcement strategies for this."

AAFA noted that since 2006, consumers buying OTC medicines with pseudoephedrine have been asked to sign log books at pharmacies, but enforcement of this policy, the monitoring of logs and the ability to manual track purchases has been inconsistent and unreliable — and the meth problem continues to rise in many states. That has led to the need for a re-examination of policies that may be curtailing patient access, according to the foundation.

According to the AAFA survey findings, 71% of respondents were against "prescription-only" laws. Also, patients feel strongly that there are smarter, more effective solutions to controlling the manufacture of meth than moving common OTC medications to prescription status. Two-thirds of respondents (66%) would support a law for nationwide electronic tracking of medication purchases, and 64% would prefer an e-tracking law to track and block sales of pseudoephedrine that go over the legal limit — a system that is already working in more than a dozen states.

When faced with the choice, 63% of those polled said they agree that the implementation of e-tracking would be the most effective way of preventing medication sales for illegal uses without penalizing those who need them. Just 18% said they agree that a doctor's prescription would be the most effective way.

Among the chief reasons patients in the survey prefer e-tracking, AAFA said, include the following:

• It is more effective and less burdensome than requiring prescriptions (66% in favor).

• It doesn't infringe on law-abiding citizens who want easy, immediate access to the OTC medications they need (49% oppose a prescription requirement for this reason).

• E-tracking builds on the current framework and law enforcement in states and regions (65% support).

• It can be updated in real-time (59% support).

• Health records remain private and protected (65% support).

"Patients are really concerned about extreme local laws that limit their freedom to access meds," Tringale added, "and AAFA is working with patients nationwide to teach lawmakers about solutions like e-tracking. We want to ensure that any policy decision to prevent the illegal sale of these medicines takes into account the voices of patients."

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