The other day I tried to buy my favorite allergy medicine — Claritin-D 24 Hour — and I was treated like a criminal drug dealer by my pharmacist as if I were detained on a Citizen’s Arrest while waiting for incarceration and prosecution.

I wasn’t handcuffed or fingerprinted, but I was detained and required to show my state-issued photo ID as well as a major credit card. I also had to sign my name and provide my address in a pharmacy book before they’d take my money and sell me my “over-the-counter behind-the-counter” allergy relief medicine. I was only allowed to purchase 10 pills.

What is going on here? Why the rigmarole trying to feel better when last year you could buy allergy drugs without the hassle from The Man? Here’s how Claritin’s website tries to deflect the Federal Death Blow to their product:

The fall allergy season is upon us. And while the “Allergy and Cold Relief” aisle may not look different at first glance, there are significant changes for you to deal with. Any of the allergy or cold decongestant still available on the shelves do not contain pseudoephedrine (PSE). Many have been reformulated to remove PSE and now contain phenylephrine (PE) and are labeled to be taken every four hours.The product s that are missing from the shelf, the long lasting, including 12 and 24 hour formulas, containing pseudoephedrine, are now in a new location, just a few steps away. Federal legislation takes effect on September 30, 2006 that imposes a deadline on moving allergy and cold products containing the active ingredient pseudoephedrine (PSE) off store shelves and placing them behind the pharmacy or customer service counter. This legislation will make it harder to find longer lasting allergy and cold decongestants. Interestingly, many allergy and cold sufferers surveyed were unaware of the changes both in the law and on the shelf product reformulations.

Now I get it. The removal of my allergy medicine from easy reach and purchase is being done for my own good. Fight the allergy medicine meth dealers behind the pharmacy counter so we won’t have to fight them at home with a Neti Pot and kosher salt! Pharmacists are fighting back against this indecent law — by refusing to stock medicines like Claritin-D 24 because they don’t want the hassle of prosecuting you in their stores!

So instead of an outright ban on the sale of these medications by law, the government has, in effect, banned them by default anyway by making the process for purchase so difficult and niggly that no honest consumer wants wade through the procurement demons and no pharmacy wants to stock the product and collect the ID and address information on their beloved, and non-guilty, customers. ABC News provided these international thoughts on the restrictions:

Pharmacists say a Federal Government proposal to impose a blanket ban on pseudoephedrine is a bad idea. The Minister for Ageing, Christopher Pyne, is seeking advice on whether a ban would be workable, saying it would significantly disrupt the manufacture of illegal methamphetamines such as ecstasy.Mr Pyne says while there are more than 280 products that contain pseudoephedrine, alternatives are available. But Ian Todd from the Pharmacy Guild says it would deny the public a useful medicine while failing to target the main source of the problem. “Pseudoephedrine’s a very valuable chemical for those people in the community that want to treat all sorts of things, coughs, colds, hay fever, those sorts of things,” he said. “A blanket ban is probably not going to stop the problem – there’s a large amount of pseudoephedrine-based product that comes in though Customs.”

Other voices like mine on the web are speaking up and out about this wacky “Just Say No to Customers” policy!

This happened to me too. I went to a Duane Reade in NYC last night to get some cough medicine. I asked for extra strength and they said it was all behind the counter, which was locked because it was late at night.Then when I took regular strength DayQuil to the counter, they carded me. Apparently its dangerous to buy The Daytime, Non-Drowsy, Congested-Stuffy Head, Sore Throat, Cough, Aching, Fever So You Can Make Meth in Your Basement Medicine.

Are there better ways to fight rising drug addictions and meth crimes than punishing the good of us — the innocent among us — who don’t bother anyone, but who prefer to breathe out of non-stuffy noses each day without getting purchase restrictions put on their allergy medicine purchases?

What good comes from the criminalization and demonization of the naive to punish the guilty? When will Dust-Off be required by law to be held behind the counter pending photo-ID verification?

15 Comments

  1. Hi David!
    I read this and went wow. Just wow!
    I too take Claritin (because it’s the only allergy medicine that works for me) and while it is expensive, I don’t mind paying for it.
    However, isn’t it going a little too far when it takes more time to buy it over the counter than it would getting a prescription from the Doctor for it?
    I’d LIKE to say that I’m so so glad it’s not happening here (yet!) but who knows how long it’ll be before something like this is happening everywhere? This isn’t going to stop the drug dealers at all. They’ll just find what they need from elsewhere.
    Sorry I haven’t been around for a while. Jeff and I just started up our own business and it’s been a litle stressful trying to manage our time.

  2. Hiya Dawn!
    It’s fab to hear from you again! I hope you are doing well.
    There are a lot of people who don’t have easy access to an MD and with regulated medicine you can sometimes get a 90 supply in one short or not. Many MDs are now making you come in every 30 days for a refill because they can charge you for an office visit and diagnostic fees.
    So right now Claritin is around a dollar a pill over the counter. A 30 day supply is $30 USD. If you have a good medication plan you might spend $20 a month for a generic version but if you add in the wait factor for mail delivery and visiting your MD and paying the fees it is sometimes better to just pay the money to your pharmacy for the brand name and leave the medication subscription loop alone.
    It’s funny though, now that Claritin is “over-the-counter” in the USA your medication plan will no longer pay for it as a brand name! They tell you to buy it from your pharmacy now. There was a time not too long ago where it was cheaper to buy actual Claritin through your meds program than in person — but those days are no longer!

  3. Hi David,
    I had to fill out the booklet to buy baby medication in the past, but I think a lot of the medications have been reformulated so that they can be stocked on the shelf.
    It’s interesting to see which items are locked up in various stores.
    In one chain drug store, the baby formulas have to be obtained from the manager who is the only person with the key to unlock the case in which it is locked away from the public. In another near a high school, the condoms are all secured. Of course, in that store, the baby formula is right out on the shelf. 🙂

  4. Chris!
    Is baby formula locked up because people want to steal it?
    Sudafed is one of the products that gave in and changed their formula. Their “PE” version isn’t as good or as long lasting as the pseudoephedrine version, but I understood why they made the change.
    Claritin, on the other hand, refuses to change their formula — they’re proud of their product — but the hassle of actually getting your hands on the stuff is a risky business decision for them. A 90 day supply of over-the-counter Claritin now means 9 separate trips to the drugstore with full ID in tow. I wonder how long before they start requesting a thumbprint, too? Bummer!

  5. Hi David,
    It happend with me in Wisconsin, I was trying to buy some extra strong cold/cough medicine and I had to provide the background of my 14th generations.
    I forgot the brand name of the medicine, but it could be bought over the counter.
    I never tried to buy something like that again without presription.
    Why label it as “off the shelf” if it is not readily available?

  6. Hey Katha!
    Yes, that’s the same kind of harassment I, and many others, experienced!
    I don’t blame you for never wanting to buy that brand again.
    With Claritin, if you “buy too many” pills — over 10 — within a “secret” timeframe that no one will tell you begins or ends, your pharmacy will report you to the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) as an “over-user” of the drug. We have officially become a police state.
    I have no idea why they call it “over the counter” when you can only buy it behind the pharmacist counter during regular business hours. It’s all madness, I say!

  7. It is a pain but I like to imagine the true drug deals, at least some of whom must have allergies, right? And they get home to their meth lab hidden in a back room of their basement and they are sneezing and stuffed up and having to debate with themselves…”do I take this one Claritin so I can get some relief from these stinkin’ allergies or do I use this pill for the meth…. relief or meth… relief or meth….”

  8. bellevelma —
    Right! There was a serious problem with Sudafed in the past where dealers were buying the 100 count bottles and cooking it down in meth labs in the backwoods of America and setting the wood shacks on fire.
    Sudafed fought that by blister-packing all their pills. DEA agents then found thousands of blister packs pocking the backwoods.
    I understand there is a possible exploitation problem with some of the ingredients at work in Claritin, but there has to be a better way to solve the problem than punishing the innocent by default.