Wednesday, September 28, 2005
The Nyquil™ Blues 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
This weekend I stopped by my neighborhood Target™ to pick up a few of life's necessities, when I noticed something odd. All the cold medications from Alka-Seltzer Cold Plus™ to Nyquil™ to Sudafed™ (and their generic equivalents) were gone from the shelves. In their place were rows of reusable barcoded plastic cards hung on metal hooks, showing color photos of the missing products and the caption "This product is now available at the Target Pharmacy. Please take this card to the pharmacy counter to purchase." Wha?...

No, it's not really a surprise. I had expected this to happen for some time...legislatures have finally passed regulations placing all pseudoephedrine-containing OTC medications behind-the-counter, and limiting quantities of their sale.

What is surprising is that the prices of these products seem to have mysteriously doubled or tripled since the new law went into effect. Before, a 10-ounce bottle of Nyquil&trade cost approximately $3.50 to $4.00, and a equal-size generic version cost about $2.50. Now, I saw the same 10-ounce bottle of Nyquil™ priced at $9.55 - almost ten dollars. Administrative costs? Offsetting lost profits? Price gouging, if you ask me - making us pay through our collectively reddened runny noses. This paragraph in Forbes caught my eye:
Minimal Sales Impact in Illinois: Less stringent legislation that only requires single-ingredient PSE (pseudoephedrine) products (but not combination products), to be placed behind the counter, reported compliance issues in urban areas and a strong allergy season, post-legislation, reduced the sales impact in Illinois. While sales growth of non-PSE products has recently outpaced PSE product growth, the PSE growth trend in Illinois is positive.
That doesn't seem to be the case at the store I visited, since all PSE-containing medications were placed behind the counter, not just the single ingredient PSE products. This may be a policy of this particular store chain; I'll update when I learn more. I am curious whether all this will actually translate to alleviation of the crystal meth problem. UPDATE: Grits for Breakfast details an early results from Oklahoma that indicate "no" - less domestic meth is ust opening up the pathways for Mexican meth.

Not to mention, you feel like a sleazy tweaker just by handing the plastic card over to the pharmacist, who gives you a once-over before selling you an overpriced bottle of achy-sneezy-fever-sore-throat-this-gubmint-is-driving-me-crazy medicine.

MORE: A strange cold-medicine store tampering case from the Seattle area [KOMO-TV]