The War on Sinuses

So apparently Sudafed is a controlled substance now. This means you have to wait in line to buy it at the pharmacy window, which also means "not at night". Apparently this is not because the drug is dangerous, or can get you high, but merely because it's an ingredient in crystal meth.

Even better, Safeway was out of both the real stuff and their own branded knockoff; Walgreens only had the twice-the-price name brand stuff left. Perhaps there's just a run on sinus medicine this week, but I suspect this means they're just not stocking it any more.

Stupid tweekers, spoiling it for everybody.

Also, both places have these little paper cards hanging on the shelves where the boxes used to be: "take this to the window". Now, I'm just an unfrozen caveman, I don't understand your modern "inventory" "tracking" systems, but I thought the whole point of systems like this was that when there are 20 cards on the shelf, that means there are 20 boxes in the back. Apparently neither Safeway nor Walgreens do it that way.

John Varley has a recent entertaining, choir-preachy drug rant, also triggered by That Scourge Pseudoephedrine:

Did you know that, until the early years of the 20th Century, as recently as the '20s and '30s, prescriptions were more of a reminder than a legal requirement? Doctors would write down what they wanted druggists to give to their patients. Once you were taking a drug, you'd just go back and ask for more. Or you could self-diagnose, just walk into a pharmacy and buy pretty much what you wanted, including opiates.

The requirement for a prescription was, as so many infringements of our rights, instituted with the best of intentions. Charlatans were selling shit that didn't work, or might kill you. So the Food and Drug Administration took over the drug business, and has had a stranglehold on it ever since, and as always, soon they were a wholly-owned subsidiary of the drug industry. The "legitimate" drug industry. Now you have to go see a doctor every 90 days to get your drugs, because that's the maximum the law allows them to write for. That means about $100 added to the already sky-high cost of medication. Just so the doctor can authorize you to buy stuff you both know you need.

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94 Responses:

  1. otterley says:

    Now you have to go see a doctor every 90 days to get your drugs, because that's the maximum the law allows them to write for. That means about $100 added to the already sky-high cost of medication.

    I've never had to pay for a doctor's visit just to have another prescription sent to the pharmacist. Every doctor I've ever seen has only required that I phone the nurse and ask for another prescription to be FAXed in.

    • jwz says:

      That very much depends on the drug in question.

      • violentbloom says:

        depends more on the doctor actually...

        and actually I believe part of this law actually makes things nicer for those of us getting controled substances because they now let you fill the prescription more than *7 days* after you've gotten it. That gets particularly inconvient if you go to the doctor and then your insurance won't fill your presciption until 10 days later. But with those types of prescriptions the doctor has to actually give you a physical piece of paper and can't phone or fax it in. and having the limited time also ruled out having your doctor do anything other picking it up in person or overnight fedex it.

        sudafed is bad for you anyway, it's got meth in it. you'd think that tweaker problem would kill itself off.

        • benchilada says:

          I have that exact problem. I have Tourette's, and take Clonazepam for it. I've had to do things like wait two days for pharmacies out-of-town to confirm that I'm supposed to be able to get it.

          Equally annoying is that I'm now taking Requip for it, which some pharmacies don't even carry yet.

          • taiganaut says:

            Where? I've had xanax filled out of state before.

            • benchilada says:

              People are weird as hell about Clonazepam and Tourette's. The time I had to wait, my prescription had been lost, and I had a local Dial-A-Nurse from the hospital call the pharmacy, telling them to fill it. They would not accept this, and I had to wait until my neurologist was able to call, a day and a half later.


          • violentbloom says:

            I had really bad side effects with clonazepam.. though neurontin was much worse ie made me suicidal.
            But good to know it does work for something. Not good to help lyme symptoms (ie too much incoming nerve information) at least in my experience though.

        • enochsmiles says:

          sudafed is bad for you anyway, it's got meth in it.

          Uh, no. Methamphetamine can be made from pseudoephedrine (in combination with other ingredients), but by no means does pseudoephedrine contain methamphetamine.

      • divelog says:

        Maybe for schedule one drugs, but if you're taking any of those, you should probably be having regular doctor visits anyways. I've gotten narcotics before, 5 refills, no doctor visits.

        • enochsmiles says:

          Schedule I is "no medical purpose." You will not have a doctor's prescription for such drugs.

        • lars_larsen says:

          If you're taking schedule one drugs you're an illegal drug user. Cannabis, LSD, Heroin, etc.

        • babynutcase says:

          if you're taking any of those, you should probably be having regular doctor visits anyways

          I agree completely. I was shocked by the suggestion that you should be perpetually on a mediction and with no doctor's visits to boot. Really if you aren't sick enough to see a doctor in three months why are you taking a medication?

      • taffer says:

        Depends where you live, too. Doctors in Ontario now require a visit to refill a prescription (actually, I assume you're talking about renewing a prescription). Cost to me is $0, cost to taxpayers in general is whatever they cost for their hideously rushed apointments.

        I can refill an existing prescription by calling the pharmacy and ordering it; most drug insurance will only pay for 90 days worth of "maintenance" drugs at a time.

        Two of our provinces just declared Sudafed a behind-the-counter substance for exactly these dubious reasons, and Canada doesn't even have much of a meth problem.

  2. bdu says:

    Now you have to go see a doctor every 90 days to get your drugs, because that's the maximum the law allows them to write for.

    Unless you have a doctor like mine, who, when called by a pharmacy for refills, will always OK them over the phone.

    • herbaliser says:

      There are certain drugs (ADD meds, Percocet) that you cannot get a call-in for.

      • divelog says:

        Bullcrap. I got Percocet from my dentist, he called it in. Maybe the laws vary by state?

        • spider88 says:

          No, it's federal. You can't call in Schedule II drugs like Ritalin. Percocet isn't in that category. Oxycontin is.

          • enochsmiles says:

            Percocet is Schedule II, and has been for many years. Vicodin, a slightly less strong narcotic/APAP combo, is still Schedule III (but pure hydrocodone is Schedule II.)

            So, the poster above either confused Percocet with Vicodin, or both his dentist and his pharmacist broke the law.

            • suppafly says:

              If you call your doctor and ask them to call in a prescription, the pharmacy has no way of knowing if you had an appointment and they are calling in the prescription or if they are just calling in the prescription without seeing you.

              • enochsmiles says:

                That doesn't change the fact that pharmacists are prohibited by law from filling Schedule II prescriptions without a written prescription on a triplicate form.

        • herbaliser says:

          I don't think so.

          Can I continue to fax in a prescription for a controlled substance to a pharmacy?

          Yes, but only for Schedules III - V drugs. The prescription should be written on a regular prescription form in order for the pharmacy to read the fax. Faxing or photocopying the new controlled substance prescription form will create a copy that has "VOID" throughout the form. Remember, the new form is intended to be tamper resistant. A prescription communicated directly from prescriber to the dispensing pharmacy is far less likely to be tampered with.

          Can I continue to call in a prescription for a controlled substance to a pharmacy?

          Yes, but only for Schedules III - V drugs.

  3. king_mob says:

    FTR, I do know a person who abuses pseudoephedrine-containing drugs. It doesn't seem like he's getting "high," exactly, but he seems to be getting *something* out of twelve Bronk-Aids taken at a time, once an hour.

    • taffer says:

      I'm on Paxil because I'm a chronic depressive (mild, but still). If I take pseudoephedrine, I get all jittery and jumpy like I've been drinking way too much coffee. If I've also been drinking coffee, I get shakey and feel like I'm almost vibrating.

      I imagine this person is getting a similar "rush"; it's not something I enjoyed... I use nosal spray now during allergy season.

    • tishalro says:

      BronchAid also contains ephedra, as opposed to psuedoephedrine. It's the only thing that you can get over the counter with ephedra in it anymore, since the big scare a few years back with people using ephedra as a weight loss thing and falling over from heart attacks because they figured if two was good, ten was even better. (OK, a few of them only took two and fell over, but the majority .... ). My husband will take two at the beginning of long (12+) hour drives, he says it provides a more mellow alertness (alert without the shakes) than No-Doz. *shrug* I wouldn't know.

      You can build a tolerance to ephedra though, hence the twelve-an-hour behavior.

    • romulusnr says:

      Yeah, it's called a clear head.

      I need to take at least four of those myself just to clear out.

  4. bonniegrrl says:

    you can still get it at Costco in bulk.... or you could a couple of months ago.

  5. benchilada says:

    We discovered a similarly annoying thing the other day, as my wife and I make soap a few times a, for Christmas, as cheap and homemade gifts.

    Red Devil Lye is no longer available in stores, apparently because it's sodium hydroxide, which is a key ingredient in making crystal meth. They now sell a non-crystalized liquid form which is totally fucking useless for soapmaking.

    Apparently there's now ONE brand of lye still for sale in the US...and only in some places. Why the fuck can't meth users start doing something less harmful, like crack, so we can keep making our fucking soap?

  6. Apparently nobody's figured out (yet) the Internet angle, so places like still sell you large amounts of pseudoephedrine and deliver.

    Which makes the store system that much stupider.

    • thealien says:

      Sure, but order 80 boxes of Sudafed online and see whether they throw in a free search of your property by the DEA.

      • starjewel says:

        They still let you order it online? Kaiser won't mail prescriptions of Sudafed because of DEA regulations.

        • thealien says:

          I don't know, but the person I was replying to said it was the case. Now that I check around, I don't see it.

        • Huh. Walgreens online will no longer sell me pseudoephedrine, but still carries it. I don't know what would happen if I actually ordered any. Since pseudoephedrine makes me too sleepy to function, I've always preferred other drugs anyway (and am glad to see more of the older decongestants et cetera coming back).

          That doesn't excuse this store idiocy at all, of course.

      • Is it actually illegal to own 80 boxes of pseudoephedrine cold medicine? Or just if you're doing something bad with them?

        Either way, it beats dealing with the stores' system, especially if you only want a box or two to get you through cold season.

        • thealien says:

          It might vary from location to location. I didn't mean to imply it was illegal, I only meant to suggest that you're probably due for some harassment if they know you're buying it in bulk.

          • If nothing else, my UPS guy would be pretty curious. The last time I got a Very Large Package from, he was very interested. Fortunately there's no federal laws against stockpiling wheelchair cushions.

        • enochsmiles says:

          Is it actually illegal to own 80 boxes of pseudoephedrine cold medicine? Or just if you're doing something bad with them?

          I don't know of any jurisdiction where it is illegal to own a given amount of pseudoephedrine. However, "unusual purchasing habits" have been used as grounds for opening drug investigations, issuing search warrants, etc.

          You're probably safe if you otherwise don't fit the profile of a meth producer, but it is a good way to draw attention to yourself.

          • I am the sort of idiot who forgets she ordered three boxes last week and buys four more when they go on sale. I wonder if that's the real reason why my mom won't let my dad go to CostCo any more? Maybe Mom just doesn't want an FDA raid on Dad's gallon jugs of ibuprofen.

            I wonder if that "unusual buying habits" business is at all mitigated if I have a prescription for the stuff? Interesting.

            • enochsmiles says:

              Ibuprofen isn't a substance of interest to the DEA, though, so your dad's probably safe.

              If the DEA knows about your prescriptions, probably. But they might not. Obviously, it isn't in their best interest to go around raiding people with chronic sinus problems. It makes for bad press, and they waste time they could be spending busting actual meth labs.

              We the public unfortunately know very little about what other factors go into the DEA's profiling of potential meth manufacturers. I suspect that Axicom and the other data mining companies play a role, but that's speculation.

  7. sc00ter says:

    That's odd, I just got some the other day without hassle. Of course I live in the good'ol "Live Free or Die" state, so that might have something to do with it.

    I did however get carded buying Robotussin at Target, something that never happened anywhere else, even since that purchase at Target.

    • ewindisch says:

      I got carded at Staples when buying compressed air...

      • taffer says:

        You didn't reply to the request with "Blow it out your ass!"?

      • yakko says:

        Wow... Wal-Mart did the same thing to me for canned air and one bottle of white Testor's model paint. They ACTUALLY CHECKED to see if my old, balding, scruffy-faced self was 21 or older, which I guess was why I found it more amusing than insulting.

      • luserspaz says:

        Yeah, I've been carded for buying "dry-gas" fuel additive. Can't we just legalize pot so kids have something less dangerous to get high on?

  8. pdx6 says:

    Longs has a similar policy when it comes to Sudafed. I had to first search the isles in vein to find that they don't stock it on the shelf, then go to the pharmacist and have her eye me as I asked for one box, max potency.

    Apparently I got the last box. Popular stuff.

  9. invdaic says:

    What I miss is being able to get Sudafed (or the generic knock-off Sudafed) in a bottle. JuSt pop off the non-childproof cap and pour out as many as you feel are appropriate for your level of sinus discomfort. But no. The bottles contain too much Sudafed, you might use ot to make meth, instead of fixing your sinuses. So you have to buy it in the box, with the blister packs, which costs more per pill than the bottle. Admittedly, it is a small annoyance having to pop each individual pill out of its little plastic prison, but still, I want my damn economical bottles.

    • sea_wolf says:

      Actually I think part of the reason for the blister packs is to reduce the likelyhood of tampering. Here in Aus we had a nasty attempt by some people to get a lot of money out of drug companies by claiming they had poisoned several packs of pills. With a bottle it's hard to tell if something has been done to it or not, but you can't just screw the lid back on a blister pack, if it's been tampered with it's pretty obvious.

      • ciphergoth says:

        That may be a factor, but it is definitely also to make it more time-consuming and inconvenient to use them as drug precursors.

  10. starjewel says:

    Last month, the Sunnyvale Target was backordered on Sudafed for two weeks. I still buy it OTC at one of the Sunnyvale Safeways though. They put some stamp on it now, I guess to track it? Either way, it's silly. I wonder if this has really cut back on the production of meth around here.

  11. vxo says:

    I think most retail stores have stopped stocking it because they can't be bothered with paying the slight extra margin required to ensure compliance with the latest and greatest in federal law.

    The little paper cards, meanwhile, mean nothing. Many stores I've been to here replace any commonly stolen, small, and valuable items on the shelf with them, and they have cards still on the shelf for items that ran out of stock or were discontinued *three years ago*.

  12. loosechanj says:

    I had one fucker lie to me and say they just quit selling it because "we had more of it stolen than we ever sold". I suspect it was because I hadn't shaven that day. But fuck that place, if I have to make sure I look like I'm headed to church next, I'll buy the name brand at walmart.

  13. 0ccam says:

    I've experienced the same thing since pseudoephedrine is an ingredient in Actifed and its generics. Some Walgreens aren't bothering to restock, despite the fact that I keep signing for the stupid pills.

    And it's the only thing that I've found that works. I guess there are a couple of new prescription drugs I haven't tried, so I guess I gotta go to the doctor.

  14. todeskaiser says:

    i just read a blurb stating that the formulation for NyQuil had changed for this very reason. apparently it is no longer effective. i can't wait until water is regulated for its use in drug production.

    • strspn says:

      Gah! Best quote:

      This is a real problem. Manufacturers can change the constituents of a over the counter product and are not required to change the name. As a physician, it has gotten increasingly difficult to know what my patients are taking. One, there are often several products with the same name, e.g. SuperFlu, SuperFlu DM, Superflu AB, SuperFlu Nightime, SupeFlu Non-Drowsy. If a patient says they are taking SuperFlu, it might any one of these. The exact formula can vary. SuperFlu might contain ibuprofen while SuperFlu AB could contain acetaminophen. Two, the composition of the formula may change without the knowledge of the patient or the physician.

  15. schwa242 says:

    Stupid tweekers, spoiling it for everybody.

    No... stupid legislators.

    It's too bad crack isn't as big as it once was. I'd love to see regulation on baking soda. Then everyone's fridge would stink, and thousands of science fair projects would go uncompleted.

    Though personally, I hate pseudoephedrine.

    The "legitimate" drug industry. Now you have to go see a doctor every 90 days to get your drugs, because that's the maximum the law allows them to write for.

    Not true, at least not for all drugs. My blood pressure meds get prescribed for a full year.

    • schwa242 says:

      Not to say that tweekers aren't stupid. Meth turns people into idiots.

      • xenogram says:

        We've had problems lately with P-heads ("P" is meth) flipping out and beating people to death. Same reason the Japs banned it, they had overworked salarymen flipping out and murdering their bosses. You don't murder your boss in Japan, it isn't the done thing.

        They used to sell it in vending machines.

  16. harvie says:

    In a similar vein, the sleep medicine zopiclone (Imovane) was recently reschedule when a new patented version (the chiral version, i.e. that only contained the left-handed molecules that worked and not the right-handed ones that were apparently inert) was brought out - the old version's patent had expired and generics were available.

    Result? Online pharmacies now don't stock the old one, the new one is $300 a box whereas the old one was $20.

    OH JOY.

    • gytterberg says:

      Pardon me while I hie down to the USPTO to file my groundbreaking new patent for bags of jellybeans without any licorice ones in them.

  17. xenogram says:

    Locally they just went into a moral panic over the stuff. Pharmacists asked the Government to ban it, which they declined to do, but they started IDing people when they wanted to buy it anyway. One Pharmacy wanted to ID me when I wanted to buy Phenergan. Well, I hadn't bought any, and it was almost 5, so I had to suffer.


  18. ioerror says:

    The best part is knowing. Feel free!

  19. lars_larsen says:

    I went to a pharmacy recently and overheard the employees talking about how someone stole all the sudafed from BEHIND the pharmacy counter.

    What I didnt understand, is why did they steal sudafed? There is AMPHETAMINE there. Not to mention oxycodone, etc. Why not take that instead?

    The whole thing is just wrong. Sick people are suffering because of some stupid political reasons.

    My friend has a horrible sinus infection and all sorts of allergies and medical problems. Sudafed is the only thing that works for her, and she can never get it!!!! She cant even get it BY PRESCRIPTION!

  20. edouardp says:

    I know what you mean - I had a wisdom tooth out the other day. (An aside: is it just me, or is that a surprisingly ... low tech procedure - surely there should be some magic ultrasound ablation technique, rather than some guy with a pair of plyers? But I digress)

    And can I go along and actually buy some real painkillers? You know, opiates? No. Because, even though I could show them the still bloody tooth and matching bloody hole, someone might abuse the system and GET FREAKING HIGH.

    But you know what really pisses me off? It's when I go and try and buy some needles. I can't. "We can't sell those to you because they can be used for drug use".

    Only, in Auckland, like most parts of western civilisation, they operate a Needle Exchange program, where drug addicts can exchange as well as plain buy needles.

    But I can't buy them from my local chemist. Because drug addicts might use them in drug use. But Drug addicts can buy them. But not me, as they might be used by drug addicts.

    Sorry? What? It doesn't matter how many times I try to run that reasoning through my head, I still can't make sense of it.

    • jwz says:

      So you shop at the needle exchange, then?

      • edouardp says:

        Well not yet, but now that I found the website that shows you where the NEEDLE VENDING MACHINE is, I will.

        I have to drive into the red-light area of town to do this of course, as I can't just walk across the road to my chemist and buy them there. Because of some obviously very good reason I still can't quite fathom.

        • jwz says:

          Needle vending machine!

          I smell a Japanese import...

        • edouardp says:

          And what music should randomly start playing while I'm writing this?

          "Tism"'s classic "(He'll never be an) Old Man River"

          With the immortal lyrics:

          I'm on the drug,
          I'm on the drug,
          I'm on the drug that killed River Phoenix.

          I saw his body thrashing round.
          I saw his pulse rate going down.
          I saw him in convulsive throes.
          I said "I'll have one of those."

    • dasht_brk says:

      You're right, of course.

      In a civilized society the local shop would offer tinctures
      of cannabis, opium, lard, salt, preserved meat, dried beans,
      fishing tackle, and cute young delivery boys that WSB would


  21. dasht_brk says:

    Yeah, I agree, more or less but read the sex-wanted posts
    on craigstlist for a while and, between the fiction writers
    who make good soft porn you can see a sample of the ravages
    of meth. It's a messed up situation and the solution is bigger
    than depriving jwz of convenient access to cheap sudafed but
    it's hard to condemn fighting the problem.

    As for people in other threads noting that the clever geek can
    goole here and order there and still get a lot of precursors?
    Well, duh, that's good. Yr average tweaker isn't in that mode.

    speed kills,
    -"debbie downer"

    • jwz says:


      Please don't go instigating another flame war with another one of your knee-jerk "oh their hearts are in the right place, so It's All Good" bullshit. You bore me.

      Yes, it is EASY to condemn the people trying to fight the problem when they are fighting so incompetently.

      In summary, shut up.

      • dasht_brk says:

        oh, c'mon. that's so 1980s. that's so insulated. tough it out dude. the world is vastly more interesting than you give it credit for.

        there's nothing bleeding-heart-liberal about me, though i'm not so sure about you.


        • jwz says:

          No, you are bleeding-heart staus quo: if it's happening, it must be a good idea.

          You can stop talking without a ban, or stop talking with a ban, it's all the same to me.

  22. dasht_brk says:

    Got a mild bug? The sniffles? Want to reach for a
    better living through better chemistry snot-drying
    chemical? Na... F that.

    Force yourself to excerise for an hour or two and then
    crash hard for a good sleep. The exercise will drive your
    metabolism to force your sinus cavity into admitting air
    just fine and, at the end, you'll be completely exhausted
    and will sleep very well during which time your immune
    system will go to town, take names and numbers, and let
    nobody it can possibly resist take the upper hand.


  23. suppafly says:

    Tylenol Sinus contains pseudoephedrine and I've never seen them try to control that yet.. although I'm sure its probably in lower amounts than what is in sudafed.

  24. fantasygoat says:

    Reading rants like that just make me horribly sad because they are so logical and right, but the world remains the same.

  25. jkonrath says:

    I was in Amsterdam a couple of weeks ago and managed to come down with a tough cold. After a few confusing visits to the all-Dutch drug store, I found out that, while it's completely legal to buy pot, you can't buy any form of antihistimine without a doctor's prescrition. In fact, you can't even buy regular Tylenol without finding a Chemist that's only open banker's hours during the week. I was expecting a store with giant barrels of opium that you scooped out into a bag like the bulk food aisle at Costco, but instead ended up with some vitamin C cough drops.

    I've had similar prescription/time/doctor-based hassles too, but I've always associated the hassle with the doctors and insurance companies trying to fuck you into more appointments and more F2F opportunities to try to push you onto more prescriptions so they can get that trip to Aruba via their drug reps.

  26. teferi says:

    Even worse is having stuffed sinuses and not even being able to take Sudafed for it because if you anything remotely resembling pseudoephedrine you get tachycardia and could die.


    But yes, goddamned meth-heads ruining it for everyone else.

  27. There's some crap going aroudn about how NHL players used to get jazzed up on Sudafed before games. Not sure if that's relevant or not.

  28. crypticreign says:

    >Also, both places have these little paper cards hanging on the shelves where the boxes used to be: "take this to the window"

    We have this in Boston too... but it's for razor blades.

    • csmole says:

      Razor blades are a highly stolen item, due to their small size and relative expense.

      This is also the (claimed) reason why some companies felt the need to place RFID chips in their razor blade packets.

  29. myoldself says:

    Ideally, making it harder for normal people to acquire Sudafed ought to drive said normal people to become meth users. Clear your sinuses and get high. How cool is that?

  30. fgmr says:

    I now find it easier to get meth than pseudoephedrine. (And it's a better quality meth than one can make from sudafed tablets.)

    I should go look for a recipe for making sudafed from meth; I like to breathe at night, but I also like to sleep.