08/09/05 — Pharmacies wait for word on limits on tablet sales

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Pharmacies wait for word on limits on tablet sales

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on August 9, 2005 1:50 PM

Going to the drug store for a nasal decongestant or relief from hay fever or allergies?

Depending on what store you go to, you will have to ask for the former over-the-counter product and maybe sign a register for it.

A bill banning over-the-counter sales of pseudoephedrine products is being considered in North Carolina. District Attorney Branny Vickory said a different bill has passed both houses in the legislature but a conference committee has not hammered out a compromise bill.

In other states, however, it already is the law.

The medication relieves nasal discomfort caused by colds, allergies and hay fever, according to the National Library of Medicine. It relieves a stuffy nose, opens nasal airways and drains sinuses.

But the ingredients in such medication as Sudafed can be used to make methamphetamine. Authorities say meth is one of the largest-growing drug problems in the nation.

"The folks who need it won't be inconvenienced," said Chip Ellison, a pharmacist at Coor's Pharmacy and Medical Supply at 1103 Wayne Memorial Drive. "But the folks who are up to something, well, they might be stopped."

Ellison said the chain drug stores already have started putting these drugs under the counter because the company had stores in states where the product is already regulated.

Heather Foster, a pharmacist at Walgreens at 2606 E. Ash St., and Gwen DeVaughn, a pharmacist at Wal-Mart at 1002 N. Spence Ave., said the medication has been put behind their counters for some time.

Ms. Foster said the change had come from corporate headquarters. She said she has noted no problems at Walgreens.

Mrs. DeVaughn said that if customers want to buy the product, they must pull a card from the shelf and take it to a technician who gets the item. She said the change has not impacted her work but does mean that the technician spends a few extra minutes with the customer.

Bob Boyd, who operates Bob Boyd Drugs at 523 E. Ash St., said he had not received any official word from the N.C. Pharmacy Board on the law and "on what we're supposed to do."

He said he had seen an article in a pharmacy journal that stated that anyone who buys the medication must register for it just as he would for cough syrup with codeine.

If the law is passed in North Carolina, Ellison said the change would result in a little more work for him and the need to find shelf space under the counter.

But Ellison said, "We try to counsel our folks, If they ask our advice. It won't be a huge deal and in the long run, it might increase customer service."