Why You May Soon Need a Prescription for Sudafed

Sudafed may be available soon only by prescription When a cold hits, New Jersey resident Ann Hilligan heads to the counter at her local pharmacy and asks for Sudafed. She's given a box after presenting a picture I.D. Her purchase is then logged.

The 37-year-old mom of two told WalletPop that she's willing to go through all that because "I like the original formula. It works better."

For consumers like Hilligan living in states like Tennessee, Missouri, Alabama, Nevada and Oklahoma, cold and allergy season may hit a little harder and take a bigger bite out their wallets this year.Laws requiring consumers to get a doctor's prescription before they can purchase Sudafed, Claritin D and other over-the-counter medications containing the decongestant pseudoephedrine are pending. That means making time to visit the doctor's office, paying that $20 or so co-pay and then going to the pharmacy for a $10 box of cold and allergy relief. The aim: to halt the growing methamphetamine drug problems in their states.

Nine states are entertaining the prescription-only idea, because Oregon, which enacted such a statute in 2005, saw a marked drop in the number of meth lab seizures. In 2004, there were 443 meth lab-related incidents, according to the Oregon Narcotics Enforcement Association. In 2010, it is down to 13. Not to mention that crimes related to meth labs is down to a 50-year low.

Mississippi adopted a similar law in 2010 and has also seen a huge decline in meth lab seizures as well. From July through February 2011, 203 meth labs were seized, compared to 607 during the same period a year ago, according to the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics.

"State legislators like to do things that work," Rob Bovett, Lincoln County district attorney and legal adviser for the Oregon Narcotics Enforcement Agency, told WalletPop. "We have five years of experience under our belt and Mississippi almost a year to verify that Oregon's experience is not unique. There is not a whole lot to connect Oregon with Mississippi, but we are delivering similar results when it comes to knocking down the meth epidemic."

This is already on top of the federal requirements imposed by The Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005. Congress had hoped to halt the scourge created by this highly-addictive stimulant when it required stores to move pseudoephedrine drugs behind the counter, consumers to present a photo I.D. and pharmacists to log and limit these purchases.

But talk to law enforcement experts, and meth remains a blight on the landscape. In 2010, there were a total of 10,247 meth-related seizures, up from 10,090 in 2009, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

That doesn't mean the pharmaceutical industry is taking this lying down. With more than $550 million a year at stake, it is fighting back and, in some cases, winning. Prescription-only laws were defeated or weren't voted on in Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky and West Virginia.

The industry may have reason to worry should states follow Oregon and Mississippi. When asked if she would get a prescription if the law were to change in New Jersey, Ann Hilligan's response was no. "I would just switch to something else," she said.

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