By Cure20 · Nov 18, 2005 ·
  1. Cure20
    If fall allergies or an early-season cold have you under the weather, lay in more time at the drug store to snag your favorite relief.

    Area drug stores and retailers lately have been pulling cold, cough and allergy medications from their shelves.

    In their place, retailers have hung cards or tags that shoppers have to take to the pharmacy to make a purchase.

    And some stores, including Target, have slashed their traditional product offerings in their efforts to fit medications behind the pharmacy counter.

    North Carolina followed other states when it passed its "meth" legislation in September. The law goes into effect Jan. 15 and regulates the sale of pseudoephedrine in pill, caplet and tablet form.

    Liquids, gel capsules and liquid capsules such as DayQuil Sinus are exempt from the law, as are products specifically geared to children younger than 12. But some retailers with national policies even have pulled Triaminic and TheraFlu from shelves.

    "I think out of an abundance of caution some retailers are beginning to implement the regulations," said David Work, executive director of the N.C. Board of Pharmacy.

    Since April, Walgreens stores nationwide have held back products with pseudoephedrine as their single active ingredient, said company spokeswoman Tiffani Bruce. CVS stores set a similar national policy July 1, spokesman Mike DeAngelis said.

    Target also is ahead of the curve. The company set a policy earlier this year to regulate pseudoephedrine sales.

    "If it's going to be a law anyway, just nip it in the bud," said Chris Gordon, pharmacy manager at Target on Bridford Parkway in Greensboro.

    If you head there to buy Sudafed, you'll have to take a card hanging on a peg and visit the pharmacy counter. Be ready to prove you're at least 18, and don't ask for more than two boxes of medicine.

    The state law will prohibit consumers from buying more than two packages per day or three packages per month without a prescription. It also will require consumers to sign a log detailing their name, address and the product they bought, down to the number of grams it contains.

    But there's only so much shelf space, and some stores are limiting what they carry.

    "We might have eliminated about 50 product lines," said Mark Gregory, vice president of pharmacy and government relations for Kerr Drug.

    Gordon said the regulations are inconvenient, but consumers don't seem irked by the extra steps.

    "Most understand," he said. "There's a small number that really are upset about it, but for the most part people understand why it's done."

    And if shoppers don't want to wait, they can always opt for a product like Sudafed PE, which substitutes phenylephrine -- which is not regulated -- for pseudoephedrine.

    Both products target congestion, but Gregory said phenylephrine might not be as effective or long-lasting. Sudafed PE can be taken every four hours, while the traditional drug lasts four to six hours, according to its packaging.

    "Folks may soon be aware of that," Gregory said. "We'll monitor the demand and see how the market plays out. ... I think there will always be somebody who has a need for something that contains pseudoephedrine."

    Kerr Drug, based in Raleigh, hasn't changed its product offering yet, and they might not until after the new year. "It may be the 14th or the 15th, but we'll have ( the new regulations ) in place by that deadline," said Stewart Eckard, pharmacist at Kerr Drug on Lawndale Drive in Greensboro.

    Eckard said managing cold medicines through the pharmacy will be like filling 10 to 20 additional prescriptions daily. His pharmacy already fills more than 250 prescriptions every weekday.

    Though his store will keep track of purchases, there's no way to stop a consumer from heading to Wal-Mart to buy two more packages of pills containing pseudoephedrine.

    Bruce said Walgreens has created an electronic log to monitor purchases in all its stores in some other states and is considering a similar method in North Carolina.

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