War on Sudafed fails

Don’t you just love it when a short-sighted bit of American WAR ON DRUGS policy is obediently adopted here in Australia, restricting your ability to buy medicines that, as critics predicted they would, actually work in order to make the trade more profitable for drug dealers?

But an Associated Press analysis of federal data reveals that the practice has not only failed to curb the meth trade, which is growing again after a brief decline. It also created a vast and highly lucrative market for profiteers to buy over-the-counter pills and sell them to meth producers at a huge markup.

In just a few years, the lure of such easy money has drawn thousands of new people into the methamphetamine underworld.

“It’s almost like a sub-criminal culture,” said Gary Boggs, an agent at the Drug Enforcement Administration. “You’ll see them with a GPS unit set up in a van with a list of every single pharmacy or retail outlet. They’ll spend the entire week going store to store and buy to the limit.”

Doesn’t that makes the struggle to get real Sudafed when you have a cold all worth while?


Adding the letters “PE” to the name does not make up for taking the “Suda” out of the actual medicine.

While we’re here, surely selling that stupid ineffective phenylephedrine stuff under the same name as the pseudoephedrine medicine we’ve used for years is “misleading and deceptive conduct” in trading and should be investigated by the ACCC. Hell, even the name “Sudafed” implies it contains pseudoephedrine. The placebo equivalent should be called “Fenilfed” to make it clear that it’s not the cold medicine that actually works. Or at least “pseudo-sudafed”.

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13 responses to “War on Sudafed fails

  1. All fair points but before these changes one thing that was startling about the Pseudoephedrine market was the pack sizes. Did anyone ever really need to buy 90 Sudafed at a time? What market do you think the manufacturers were profiting from there?

  2. I’ve never seen a pack of 90. But I would buy a pack of 48 or so to put in the medicine cabinet so I don’t have to go down to the chemist when sick.

  3. Slightly off topic, but ive found getting the aspirin/codeine pills that i use when i have a flare up of an old injury increasingly difficult.

    As little as a year ago i could walk into any chemist, buy a packet of Aspalgin and walk out the door. Recently it requires an interview with the pharmacist, and implications that im some kind of junky.

    Just because i look a bit rough, i get treated like a criminal when trying to buy an over the counter medication for a legitimate injury.

    Even my partner (who tried to buy me a packet recently when i had a broken wrist) got harassed, and unlike me she looks very respectable.

    It seems punishing the majority of law abiding customers is acceptable, as long as it inconveniences a few desperate junkies.

  4. Splatterbottom

    Duncan the chemists in NSW are now required to keep analgesics containing codeine behind the counter. My chemist told me that this is due to people becoming addicted to codeine.

    I hate being cross-examined when I buy pseudoephedrine. I usually explain that I want the Demazin tablets that actually work.

  5. jordanrastrick

    Textbook case from market regulation with unintended consequences 101.

    In fairness though, it hasn’t increased the profitability of drug dealers, but rather expanded the size of the industry by creating an opening for entrepeneurs to circumvent the purchase limits.

    I can’t take pseudoephidrine these days anyway, so in this case my view happens to be sucked in to all you inconvenienced Sudafed takers 😛

  6. Duncan, I get the same thing when I ask for Nurofen Plus. And I once tried to get my reflux medication with some painkillers I’d been prescribed and copped a lecture about how they would make my stomach worse and what was my doctor thinking prescribing it, without knowing any of my health circumstances. Some people just love being gatekeepers.

  7. I can’t take Psuedoephadrine either, Jordan, so for me the widespread availability of the Fenil stuff is good news.

  8. jordanrastrick

    Oh, and without going into the effectiveness or otherwise of the measures to combat it, addiction to over-the-counter codeine is ridiculously common – from my understanding of the data, and also anecdotal evidence I’m aware of…

    Maybe I should try and revive my old drug license idea (the second in the fourth-third last paragraphs at this very old and not so eloquently written blog post of mine.

  9. Jordanrastrick: I’d be curious which data you’re referring to as, from the data I’ve worked with, while the not-as-prescribed use of OTC codeine us common, addiction (using ICD10 type diagnostic criteria) is very rare and where it does occur, is relatively mild (using a modified Severity of Dependance Scale), self limiting and often resolves with minimal or no intervention and causes little dysfunction.

    It seems to me we’re inconveniencing a large section if the population who rely on these medications to deal with a numerically small and somewhat trivial problem. But, hey, at least we’re seem to be doing something, at least someone’s thinking about the children.

  10. PS, my snarky tone in the last para isn’t aimed at anyone here, rather at bureaucrats that make public health decisions on moral panic and publicity concerns rather than evidence.

  11. jordanrastrick

    Well, my understanding of the data is pretty limited, and based on (perhaps unreliable?) memories of reading a study a while ago.

    So assuming I can’t find the source to back up my claims, you’re probably right.

  12. jordanrastrick @some very old and eloquently written blog post

    Your are ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

    Tho I tend to think auchel has covered it wrt codeine addiction.

    Honestly I can’t see it myself, but if it was a possibility then it could be addressed without the sort of stupidity Keri and Duncan both got subjected to.

  13. Ech, even worse in the U.S. where you can’t get Codine over the counter, so Codrol is illegal…

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