Abused cough meds may get DEA controls

Remember when the federal government put nasal decongestants behind the counter because some buyers were using their active ingredient, pseudoephedrine, to make methamphetamine? Something similar could happen to certain cough medicines, because adolescents are increasingly using them to get high. It's yet another example of pitfalls in the consumer health business, which Big Pharma has been eyeing--and investing in--as a way to diversify sales beyond prescription meds.

The Drug Enforcement Administration is looking to the FDA for recommendations on restricting cough suppressants containing dextromethorphan. That includes such well-known brands as Pfizer's Robitussin and Procter & Gamble's Vicks NyQuil Cough. So, the FDA is convening an advisory committee Sept. 14 to consider making dextromethorphan a controlled substance.

The FDA itself sounds inclined to somehow restrict availability. "Because of the drug's perceived safety, ease of availability, and desired psychoactive effects, it is sought after by those seeking to alter their mental state or to get ‘high,'" FDA staff say in a report. "Therefore, routine labeling changes or product packaging redesign will probably not reduce the present abuse trend."

But drugmakers aren't thrilled with the idea; the OTC trade group, Consumer Healthcare Products Association, says that deeming dextromethorphan a controlled substance will burden consumers, not to mention take a bite out of sales.

- get the FDA's report
- see the CHPA's take
- read the Bloomberg piece