Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Lay off the 'P' John Key

National Party PM John Key is revealing himself to be almost as much a fan of the "nanny state" as his predecessors in the Labour Party.

Key has today proposed banning the use of Pseudoephedrine in the making of cold and flu tablets sold in New Zealand.

John Key has asked his new chief science adviser Prof Peter Gluckman to investigate whether pseudoephedrine can be eliminated from all cold and flu tablets available in New Zealand.

He says he understands a number of states in USA have banned the ingredient (actually only Oregon, where it is still available through prescription).

Mike Sabin, a misinformed (or deliberately-biased) campaigner for the anti-drugs lobby, claims there are other effective medicines for treating cold and flu symptoms.

He claims there are "many viable viable alternatives, well over a dozen, that can replace pseudoephedrine, if you like, in cold and flu medications... So in actual fact, there is no need for pseudoephedrine any longer."

This is not true. The "dozen or so" that Sabin mentions are the "PE"-tagged products manufactured under brands like Codral, Sudafed, and Lemsip. These products replace Pseudoephedrine with the ingredient Phenylephrine (hydrochloride, which can't be used in the manufacture of "P" or methamphetamines).

However, despite what the expensive TV ads from the likes of Codral try to spin, the new formulations marketed with Phenylephrine are definitely not as effective as the original tablets/remedies.

The chief executive of the NZ Pharmacy Guild, Annabel Young, backs this up. She says the alternatives to pseudoephedrine (ie. PE) were not nearly as effective in dealing with cold symptoms. (NZ's own Consumer Institute had similar findings after testing the PE products when they first came on the market a few years ago).

In the United States, there has been growing calls against the blanket substitution of Phenylephrine for Pseudoephedrine. Many pharmacists argue that oral Phenylephrine is innefective as an oral decongestant, particularly at the 10mg dose normally used.

At least two studies found Phenylephrine formulations were no more effective as a decongestant than a Placebo. A somewhat more positive study by GlaxoSmithKline's own researchers did find it was more effective than a placebo (although still not as effective as a nasal decongestant as Pseudoephedrine).

Making the drug prescription-only has been suggested by Labour leader Phil Goff. This is almost as bad, as people who just have the regular standard winter cold would have to spend an hour or so at the doctors (with many also paying a healthy Doctor's fee), just to get access to a simple cold remedy.
The monkeys have already taken away the "good stuff"... ie. the genuine full strength 12-hour versions of Codral and Sudafed, which gave decongestant relief for a full work day. These were "modified release tablets" which released the pseudoephedrine slowly over a 12 hour period. Don't let them condemn us to relief-free-colds for life!!

* NZ Herald - PM moves to ban P-makers' vital cold and flu pills

* 3 News - Pharmacists argue over-the-counter sales not to blame for P

* Bio-Medicine.org - FDA Mulls Effectiveness of OTC Cold Remedies

* PubMedCentral.com - Substitution of phenylephrine for pseudoephedrine as a nasal decongestant. An illogical way to control methamphetamine abuse

* Not PC - Can’t we just ban stupidity from office?

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