DRUG SURVEY

Michigan residents don’t support prescription requirement for cold, allergy meds containing pseudoephedrine

A variety of over-the-counter medications on a shelf are pictured. A survey by The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America – Michigan Chapter and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association found more than half of Michigan residents surveyed were not supportive of “any state public policy” that would require a doctor’s prescription to purchase over-the-counter, or OTC, cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force)

By CECILIA BROWN

Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — Data released from a recent survey conducted by The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America — Michigan Chapter, and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association indicates more than half of Michigan residents are not supportive of “any state public policy” that would require a doctor’s prescription to purchase over-the-counter, or OTC, cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine.

The survey’s results indicated 59 percent of registered voters in Michigan who were surveyed oppose requiring a prescription for OTC cold and allergy medications that contain pseudoephedrine. Of the respondents, 55 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of Republicans and 69 percent of Independents opposed the prescription requirement for these medications. Over two-thirds of those surveyed “believe a prescription requirement would negatively impact themselves or their families, including 42 percent who would find such a law very inconvenient,” a press release states.

The research was conducted because the groups “wanted to see how Michiganders felt about this issue,” as a survey had not been done on the matter before in Michigan, said Carlos Gutierrez, vice president for state and local government affairs at Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

The groups also wanted to make sure they could offer “concrete data for them (lawmakers) to turn to” on the issue, as placing additional restrictions upon pseudoephedrine has been under discussion in recent years because the substance can be used to make methamphetamine, Gutierrez said.

“Many state legislatures across the country have found an appropriate balance, in recent years, in curbing the diversion of PSE-containing medicines while avoiding imposing unnecessary burdens on honest consumers. Voters across Michigan have made clear that they oppose a prescription requirement for these medicines, while they support successful, commonsense initiatives like the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx), which prevents the illegal sale of PSE.” Gutierrez said. “It is important for lawmakers to understand the difference between local meth use and local meth production. As the Office of National Drug Control Policy stated in their 2019 National Drug Control Strategy, ‘most of the methamphetamine available in the United States is manufactured in Mexico.’ The report also says that domestic meth production is at its lowest level in 15 years.”

With the survey’s results, Gutierrez emphasized that they want “to make sure that whatever policy the state pursues that they are considering the patient and the medicinal value of these medications for a patient.”

“We don’t want our medications being diverted for unintended use but we feel strongly that these medications should remain accessible over the counter for those that need them,” Gutierrez said.

The medications are used by many, as 18 million households nationwide reporting the use of this type of medication at one point or another, officials said.

“For decades, cold and allergy sufferers have been able to treat their symptoms with over-the-counter medications. This poll further illustrates the hassle and inconvenience that would be forced upon law-abiding individuals simply looking to buy products like Claritin-D or Zyrtec-D to care for congestion related to allergies or a common cold. People would be forced to miss work to see their doctor and families would be burdened with higher costs through insurance co-pays for doctor and pharmacies,” said Kathleen Slonager, RN, executive director of AAFA Michigan. “We greatly support efforts that effectively prevent criminal meth production in Michigan, however, PSE prescription proposals miss the mark and simply do more harm than good.”

Furthermore, around 70 percent of Michigan residents surveyed supported the use of the existing National Precursor Log Exchange, or NPLEx, system, which tracks and blocks “illegal sale of PSE medicines that might be diverted from their intended use,” officials said.

This system works by requiring customers buying pseudoephedrine-containing medications to show valid identification, which is entered into a database. The database can then detect “suspicious purchases” that may be used for meth making, according to the Michigan Attorney General’s office. If someone is caught purchasing the medication to make meth, they can be arrested, charged with a felony and face up to 10 years in prison.

“That system has really worked well in Michigan, just last year it reported 64,000 boxes being blocked from purchase,” Gutierrez said, adding the system has blocked 1.5 million boxes from purchase nationwide.

Furthermore, Michigan also has a meth offender list that blocks those who have been convicted of meth-related crimes from purchasing pseudoephedrine-containing medications over the counter and requires them to have a prescription.

“We fully support that, we think if you’ve been convicted of a meth crime you’ve surrendered your right to purchase over the counter,” he said, adding that he believes requiring a prescription for the general public to obtain PSE “would do nothing for meth problem, but would have a big impact on law-abiding families to get relief during the cold and allergy season.”

With these systems in place, Gutierrez said Michigan’s has one of the “more comprehensive laws in the country,” and that he feels that law in place is working.

“We don’t think that prescription-only is the way to go and we discourage that policy from being adopted in the state of Michigan,” Gutierrez said.

The poll was conducted by ALG Research from February 4-7, 2019 and included 500 registered voters living in Michigan. The poll included an even mix of landline and cellphone interviews and has a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percent, organizers said.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is cbrown@miningjournal.net.