Pseudoephedrine and TheraFlu
November 26, 2006 4:45 PM   Subscribe

OK, effective this autumn my local Walgreens (in Texas) no longer stocks the pseudoephedrine Theraflus and generic equivalents. Obviously it has to do with the systemic meth crackdown. How much of a shortage is there really, nationwide?

When we have colds, Theraflu is like the holy grail. However the chlorpheniramine stuff just isn't the same.

Is the shortage just bogus and having to do with ordering/distribution, or is it real? I don't mind it getting it legally, and the small quantity laws are enough for me, but I don't know from whom to get it. Can I order it online? And I'm not really averse to gray market sources if that's all there is.
posted by hodyoaten to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't understand this question. If they no longer stock pseudophed and its due to the meth crackdown, then there ya go...

If they're out of stock and its back-ordered until next week or month, then there's a supply-side bottleneck. That's a shortage then for Walgreen's.

I don't believe there's a national shortage of pseudoephedrine. Lots of stores still sell it...and they better. Its a remarkable drug and if it was unavailable in an entire city I imagine the legit complaints would dwarf any potential problems stemming from meth labs.
posted by dendrite at 5:27 PM on November 26, 2006

In my state, pseudoephedrine now requires a prescription and so is kept in the pharmacy.
posted by neuron at 5:36 PM on November 26, 2006

There is no shortage. Pharmacies are pulling them from the shelves so they can't be used to make drugs, not because they don't have any.
posted by Jairus at 5:44 PM on November 26, 2006

Yeah, echoing understanding is that there isn't a shortage, but a regulation issue. Pseudoephedrine regulations went into effect on the state and federal level over the past few years.

If your Walgreens no longer sells it, maybe they haven't completed the necessary training detailed at the bottom of this page?
posted by awegz at 5:47 PM on November 26, 2006

Well, firstly, this is a question of semantics. There isn't a shortage of this particular drug, it's a restriction because of legal issues. Partially because of the patriot act, partially because of previous state laws.
Different states have different laws, Oregon's is particularly stringent. (See neuron's answer above.)
posted by lilithim at 5:54 PM on November 26, 2006

It's not a shortage. Between the patriot act and state laws, odds are that you'll be able to find it only behind the counter [after showing ID and/or adding your name to a list] or with a prescription. Most companies that make pseudoephedrine-containing products have put out new versions with phenylephrine or other replacement drugs [most of which are, as you noted, inferior.] It looks like you'll probably need to show ID & sign your name to get the products from behind the counter at a pharmacy, and you'll be unable to buy more than two packs at once, but check with a local pharmacist to be sure.
posted by ubersturm at 6:17 PM on November 26, 2006

Ask your pharmacist, there's a good chance they have it behind the counter and will ask for your id and limit how much they give you. You can circumvent the Patriot Act imposed dosage limits by asking for a prescription from your doctor, who can set your dosage as he/she sees fit.
posted by furtive at 6:31 PM on November 26, 2006

Ah, perhaps I misunderstood hodyoaten's original question. Hodyoaten, are you saying your Walgreen's doesn't have pseudoephedrine at all (even behind the pharmacy counter) or that you're just not seeing it in its usual spot? If it's the latter, furtive's got it.
posted by awegz at 6:46 PM on November 26, 2006

As far as a "shortage," I went to two pharmacies a couple of months ago w/ a pseudoephedrine script and one had none and the other only had a few days' supply, and I had to go back later for the rest of my script. So, I think there may be a shortage, but it might be just among all prescription decongestants -- I went back last week for a different decongestant script, and they could only partially fill that one, too. So I think people are going to the doctor for this a lot more now (like you would) and that plus the lack of pseudoephedrine over the counter is effing up the supply a bit. At least in Georgia, where I am.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:48 PM on November 26, 2006

They still have it, it's behind the counter.
posted by IronLizard at 6:49 PM on November 26, 2006

In my original question I clearly failed to mention that I had been getting the pseudoephedrine formulas behind the counter for the past year (with ID and all that), and it's only now that they started shrugging their shoulders and telling me all they carry anymore is the OTC chlorpheniramines out in the aisles.

The behind-the-counter drugs at the pharmacy are clearly visible, and indeed the restricted Theraflu type drugs are not there anymore. I do see Sudafed, but the Theraflu-Sudafed cocktails have never worked like the real deal.
posted by hodyoaten at 6:51 PM on November 26, 2006

Try other pharmacies? Is there something that's keeping you with this Walgreens? Unless there is a law that's taken effect in the last month or so, you might still be able to find it in your area.
posted by lilithim at 7:09 PM on November 26, 2006

Several companies have changed the formulations of combination medications in recent months, removing the pseudoephedrine so that their medications can remain in the aisles. Nyquil/Dayquil has done this, I know, and the pseudoephedrine-containing Nyquil and Dayquil are simply not produced anymore. I don't know whether that's the case with Theraflu, but it sounds from your description as though it might be.

You can call the company to find out for sure whether they've phased out the old formulation, but if the Theraflu box on the shelf says something like "new formula with Phenylephrine" (or some other ingredient), it's likely that the product you knew is gone, probably forever. Manufacturers are having to choose between putting out a product that doesn't work as well and making their product a huge hassle for consumers to buy, and many of them are choosing the former. Sorry.
posted by decathecting at 7:18 PM on November 26, 2006

No pharmacy in the state of Oregon has pseudoephedrine at all any more. It's miserable with "flu season" upon us. Phenylprine substitutions don't allow me to have a productive day despite cold symptoms the way the original formulas do. I can drive up to Washington and sign some pharma forms to buy a little at a time (one box of dayquil, for instance), but it's not available there OTC any more. I guess the laws are getting more and more restrictive. Wonder if it's really having any effect on meth?

I haven't tried it yet but I've noticed seems to say they'll ship "real" sudafed out if you fax them a copy of your driver's license, up to a certain number of grams of the good stuff. I didn't find anything on their site saying residents of states with law's like OR's would be turned away.
posted by olecranon at 7:43 PM on November 26, 2006

olecranon, according to this earlier thread on Sudafed, will no longer ship products containing pseudoephedrine to residents of Texas. Texas' state laws regulating the sale of pseudoephedrine are much stricter than most state and federal laws.
posted by RichardP at 7:59 PM on November 26, 2006

Good lord, I hope such draconian regulations don't make it to California. For what it's worth, I've heard that the expectorant guaifenesin (e.g., Mucinex) works for some afflicted with stuffy sinuses . . .
posted by treepour at 11:18 PM on November 26, 2006

olecranon - regardinging the effectiveness of these anti-meth measures, the article I linked to up above seems pretty representative, insasmuch as it suggests that while the number of small amature meth labs has declined, more [and purer] meth is shipped in from Mexico to make up for it. In other words, meth sales aren't really being affected, but those of us with colds who aren't really helped by phenylephrine are very much affected.
posted by ubersturm at 6:11 AM on November 27, 2006

ubersturm: "Hi, I'm from the government, I'm here to help you." People asked our legislators to "Get tough" without specifying how. This is the result. Write your senator and tell them you don't like it. On top of that, most of the pseudoephedrine-based meth is made from generic psuedoephedrine shipped in from Asia. Supply wasn't affected one bit.

Where I am in Texas, you can mostly not find the pseudoephedrine based anything anymore. I'm buying all I can when I can find it, which I realize looks suspicious, but ... as it's getting yanked, and companies are choosing to release less effective versions to retain their OTC status, at least I won't have to deal with not having it at all.
posted by SpecialK at 6:25 AM on November 27, 2006

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