Yet another invasion of privacy.
Cold pills? Sign here
Friday, May 19, 2006
By MARY JO LAYTON
How do you spell cold relief? ID.
A growing number of North Jersey pharmacies are requiring customers to show identification when purchasing cold and allergy medicines as part of the federal government’s crackdown on illegal drug production.
The new federal law also requires stores to move these everyday products off the shelves – and keep them behind the counter. In addition, customers are restricted on the amount of Sudafed, Sinutab and other drugs they may buy.
These medicines contain pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient used to manufacture methamphetamine, an illegal drug. Meth is made in clandestine labs with battery acid, drain cleaner or other chemicals that help turn the cold and allergy medicine into the highly addictive powder.
The law is part of the USA Patriot Act, which takes aim at drug dealers along with terrorism. When it went into effect last month, pharmacists were forced to remove these common products from their shelves and to limit the supply to customers. Come September, all pharmacists will be required to ask customers for ID and keep a log of purchases of drugs containing pseudoephedrine.
Many pharmacists and retailers, including CVS, Walgreens, Wal-Mart and Target, have begun carding customers nationwide before they make these routine purchases.
The law has angered customers like Marina Wilson, who didn’t like having to produce her driver’s license just to buy her daughter medicine recently. “It’s just another invasion by the government on my privacy,” the Hackensack resident said. “Do I look like I run a drug lab?”
While customers initially balked, they do comply, said Javier Rodriguez, a pharmacist at Target in Edgewater.
“Some people might think it’s an intrusion of their privacy but everybody understands why when we explain it,” he said.
Bob Zadra cleared shelf space behind the counter at Town & Country Pharmacy in Ridgewood and said the change is presenting minimal inconveniences. “We’ve moved it off the shelves and eliminated it as an over-the-counter purchase,” said Zadra, a pharmacist and an owner.
The law limits daily purchases to one or two packs of Sudafed and or other drugs – a supply that gets most customers through any bout of sneezing and wheezing.
“In most cases I’m limiting it to 24 tablets or less,” said James Kim, the owner of Center Pharmacy in Fort Lee. “If they come every day and buy that amount, they should be investigated.”
Local pharmacists, however, said they had never had customers scoop up dozens of boxes of cold medicine.
“Anyone who would buy more than a package would set off a red light with me anyway,” said David Teichman, owner of the Parkview Pharmacy in Teaneck.
Byung Lee, a pharmacist at Rodeo Pharmacy in Palisades Park said that some griped when she asked them to sign a log, just as customers are required to do for prescription drugs.
“They do understand but they think it’s kind of a pain when we’re busy,” she said.
As customers find themselves wandering the stores looking for their cold medicines or complaining about being asked for identification, some pharmacists are wondering if it’s worth it to continue carrying these products.
The law is prompting some manufacturers in the lucrative cold and allergy market to provide alternatives that won’t face the same restrictions, some of which have already reached drug store shelves in North Jersey.
Many products contain new formulas with the ingredient phenylephrine, which also acts as a nasal decongestant, yet is not restricted.
Can’t find your favorite allergy medicine on the store shelf? Blame the Patriot Act. It may be better known for taking on terrorists, but it also takes aim at drug dealers.
It requires pharmacists to restrict customer access to common cold and allergy medicines that contain the ingredient pseudoephedrine, which can be used to make methamphetamine.
Limits customers to purchasing 300, 30-mg pills in a month or 120 such pills in a day.
Beginning in September, all stores will require identification and ask you to sign a log whenever you buy one of these products.