When allergies run amuck or cold and flu season begins, many patients run to the pharmacy and reach for some easy over-the-counter relief. There are many options when it comes to the nasal decongestant medications but there is one treatment many swear by, Sudafed®, also known as pseudoephedrine.
While over 18 million American families rely on these medicines every year, pseudoephedrine can also be used in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine.1 When purchasing this medication, there are laws in place which limit purchasing and can add an additional step to your visit to the pharmacy counter.
What is Pseudoephedrine?
Pseudoephedrine (PSE), or Sudafed®, is generally a safe and effective ingredient found in some cold, allergy, and sinus medicines to provide congestion relief. It works directly in the respiratory tissues by stimulating vasoconstriction (or the shrinking of vessels) in the nose. This response reduces nasal drainage and helps to clear the sinuses and provide relief for cold and flu symptoms.2
Side Effects of Sudafed
Because of the way it works, pseudoephedrine can have some undesirable side effects such as increased heart beat, tremors, and increased pressure in your heart.2 These side effects can add increased risk in some patients with other conditions.
If you have medical diagnoses such as high blood pressure, heart failure, kidney issues, or glaucoma, speak to your doctor or pharmacist prior to using pseudoephedrine.
In 2005, Congress passed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act to address the criminal diversion of PSE to the illegal production of meth. Nationwide, there are laws in place that limit and restrict the sale of pseudoephedrine by pharmacies. All pseudoephedrine containing products must be secured and sold from behind a sales counter.
Daily purchase limits of 3.6 grams (approximately a 15-day supply) per day and 9 grams per 30-day period. To purchase you must present a government–issued identification and sign a logbook, usually electronic, which can be accessible by law enforcement at any time. This is done to prevent any diversion or misuse of the medication. Since the Act passed, meth labs declined nationally by more than 65 percent from their peak in 2004.6
The downside to limiting the sale of pseudoephedrine is the direct impact it may have on patients as the medications are effective for cold and flu symptoms and reduce unnecessary and costly visits to the doctor. Some states, like Oregon, for example, require a prescription from a doctor for the medication in efforts to control the patients who purchase the product.7
Should You Take Sudafed?
Pseudoephedrine is a safe and effective treatment for allergy, cold and flu symptoms. Restrictions have been placed on the purchase of pseudoephedrine, requiring small supplies to be purchased and government-issued ID to be required. Some patients may have an increased risk of side effects when taking pseudoephedrine so it’s important to speak with your doctor or pharmacist prior to beginning this new medication. To find out your state’s rules and regulations visit: https://www.nacds.org/pse/.