Tuesday, 3 October 2017


One of the nice things about the people that read my blog is that I get some expert opinions on all sorts of matters in the comments, and this may be one where legal, pharmaceutical or medical opinion may abound. So bring it on...

Sudafed is a brand of decongestant and one of them is Pseudoephedrine hydrochloride. It works well as a decongestant.

But buying this stuff can be an issue. They make a lesser decongestant which, to be frank, does not work (for me).

My understanding is that the big issue is that this stuff can be used as the basis for some nasty drugs. Yes, I have seen Breaking Bad. I once tried to buy some when in the US and you would not believe the hassle - passport needed, and even then I think they managed to break their own rules allowing a non US / non Canadian to buy the stuff.

It is over the counter, so a serious medication. But to be frank, when I have a nasty cold, this is what does the trick to clear my head and my chest and sort it out. The other stuff they do just gives me a headache. This works well. As I understand it, there is a possible side effect of increasing blood pressure, so one to watch out for if you are hypertensive. I am, but never have had an issue with this stuff, and I do check.

My problem here is that last year, over the end of the year, I had a really bad cold. It literally lasted for months and I managed to crack my ribs coughing so badly at one point. Yes, I went to the doctors, and they could do nothing and confirmed that lots of people had a really bad cold for months. It was not some silly "man flu", and a lot of the time I was in bed. This was really very unpleasant and lasted for months.

During this I was, at various points, taking maximum doses of paracetamol, ibuprofen and sudafed for several weeks at a time. I take the instructions seriously, and do not take more than allowed. Indeed, I tend to try and take less than maximum dose if I can. But I had a cold for MONTHS, and so did get through a few packs of decongestants.

Oddly, since then, I have had more sniffles and colds than usual. My doctor is not concerned. I get another full check up in a few months anyway. They are also not concerned if I occasionally do take sudafed for a cold. It works. They do ask that I check my blood pressure, that is all. I do that.

The problem is the pharmacist in Tesco in Warfield. She decided I was taking too much! Initially just a query, then an outright refusal to ever sell me it on the basis that I was on blood pressure meds. Well, reading the advice on this you should check with your doctor, which I have done, but no, she simply will not sell me any. Oddly, she will not sell my wife any either on the basis she is on blood pressure meds, when, in fact, she is not!!!

So is this for my health? If it is, I am sure the doctor would say. I do not buy this a lot. Well, I did not, until the day I was banned!!!

Now, what do I do - well what any sane person would do, I stockpile it!

So by banning me, I actually have loads on hand as every other pharmacy, even boots on-line, is more than happy to sell it, so now I am tempted to take a tablet at the slightest sniffle or congestion. To be flank, I am not, as I would rather not take any medication unnecessarily. But banning me has had the opposite effect on availability for me. So why do it?

Why ban me from a medication that the doctor's surgery are happy I take occasionally if I need it? Why create a situation where I end up stockpiling it just in case and so am MORE tempted to take it than I would be otherwise? How stupid is that?

Oh well, this is the same for many systems of regulation and control - they can often create the opposite effect to what they intend...


  1. Sounds like you need to be with a private doctor. Mine is willing to go well beyond the NHS rules and prescribe what he/she believes is appropriate for me. And not necessarily what is deemed "allowed" by the NHS. There is a huge difference between the two. It costs a bit, but (and don't take this the wrong way) I think it is well within your financial means.

    Separately, have you tried Vicks Mentholatum and its derivative products? I find it a good decongestant. It's available off-the-self in Tesco, Sainsbury, etc.

  2. You may find this scientific paper of interest: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/d19f/af91566b26c57c59bb3bc0e3e5d1727ba673.pdf

    It describes a method for synthesising your own pseudoephedrine, normally difficult to obtain, using nothing more than crystal meth, readily available without ID checks or paperwork from your local drug dealer.

  3. Because you're not buying it from her - so she's not liable in any way.

    You are trying to think about how her doing this helps you - it doesn't; it helps her.

  4. It's the same with us for Ibuprofen/paracetamol, because the boxes are so tiny, and you can only buy 2 at a time (in case you want to kill yourself I assume), as tend to keep around 10 boxes in stock, so I actually now have more than enough for a suicide attempt, should I feel the urge, and I don't even need to go and buy any to do it!

  5. I agree with keithb, my other half has a few chronic illnesses which flare up from time to time - so sometimes taking the full ibuprofen dosage for a week or two. Due to the purchasing limits(*), I got into the habit of always buying it (even if we didn't need it) so we had supplied when the time came (and to cover the time when she needed ibuprofen cream, painkillers and I needed flu remidies: hitting the limit).

    * - We've since found out that you can get a big box of max strength ibuprofen over the counter (at least 52 tablets) just by asking: making a mockery of the "max 2 boxes of 12" rule.

    1. The max 2 boxes rule is for the normal checkout staff on the tills, they have no medical training. To get the jumbo boxes of Ibuprofen you have to ask the pharmacist, who is at least supposed to check you've had them before and know what the dose is and what you are using them for.

  6. Your pharmacist knows you can fairly easily go and buy more from elsewhere, from her point of view her conscience is clear. Pseudoephedrine is a potential drug of abuse for reasons other than illicit drug production, it can be used to aid weight loss and improve athletic performance although it's nowhere near as effective as ephedrine which is no longer easy to get hold of.
    It's a shame because as you mention pseudoephedrine is a much more effective decongestant than phenylephrine which is the widely used alternative. Have you tried otrivine nasal spray (xylometazoline) which is a easily purchased, rapid and long acting spray? The only problem with otrivine is you do get a bit of rebound congestion next day and you shouldn't use for more than a few days otherwise the rebound congestion will be quite severe

  7. It is a pharmacist's responsibility to do that sort of thing - pay attention to what you're buying / picking up, make sure it's safe, and pick up on possible interactions or problems. They are the experts on drugs, more so than doctors, and it's not unusual for a pharmacist to ring up your GP or send you back to them if they've spotted a problem the GP has overlooked. You could try getting the pharmacist to ring your GP and talk it through, or get your GP to prescribe the pills. I know it's frustrating being a sensible rational person bumping up against processes designed to deal with impulsive careless behaviour :). The rules about the sale of paracetamol etc. are a great example - the number of deaths due to overdoses has fallen dramatically since they were introduced - they may appear clumsy on the surface, but they have a subtle and substantial effect.