If you are one of the millions of cold and allergy sufferers that take over-the-counter pseudoephedrine, you know how uncomfortable it can be to buy it at the pharmacy counter. Here is how to avoid that.

Man holding blister pack of pseudoephedrine in hand

Brief History

On March 9, 2006, President Bush signed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 (CMEA).
This act, CMEA, amended the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to regulate the sale of products that contain ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine, their salts, optical isomers, and salts of optical isomers, that may be marketed or distributed lawfully in the United States under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDA) as nonprescription drugs.

Where Pseudoephedrine ID requirement comes in

On October 14, 2008, the President signed the Methamphetamine Production Prevention Act of 2008 (MPPA). The Act amended the existing language to clarify the information entry and signature requirements for electronic logbook systems permitted for the retail sale of scheduled listed chemical products.

That a regulated seller of scheduled listed chemical products may not sell such a product unless the purchaser:Hands holding ID card

  • Presents a government issued photographic identification and
  • Signs the electronic (or written) logbook with his or her name, address, time and date of the sale.

To cut a long story short, you need a government issued ID (Driver’s license (mainly accepted by pharmacies)) to buy pseudoephedrine or ephedrine.


Common problems

1. Makes you feel like a criminal.

Imagine being on the line at the pharmacy counter to buy a pseudoephedrine-containing product and the technician yells out ID, please.Mugshot

Worse, if you don’t have an ID with you and even worse if the transaction is declined and you are stuck with coming up with all kind of explanations to save face and leave there with a little humility.

2. Over zealous pharmacies can consider a rejection an attempt to commit fraud

Fraud signYes. And they can report this to law enforcement. law enforcement may come knocking at your door two days later and ask you questions about a suspected fraudulent attempt to obtain controlled substances. Not good.

3. Pharmacy employees hate this as much as the customers.

Some states require the pharmacist on duty to verify the ID and input authorization documentation in the electronic log. In other words, personally, do this transaction. PharmacistGood luck with that when the pharmacy is busy and the pharmacist is trying to do 5 things at the same time. You may have to turn around and come back later. But then, the pharmacy is closed. Too bad. You are just going to be miserable the rest of the night.

4. You cannot share your pseudoephedrine.

After all, you do not consider this a prescription medication and as such you could share it, you thought. No sharing symbolYou will definitely run out before your daily quota of 3.6g or monthly quota of 9g (about 35 days worth of medication no matter what dose you choose) and get a rejection at the pharmacy counter.

5. Packaging requirements limit a pack to a daily maximum.

For instance, a 240 mg tablet cannot be more than 15 tablets (240 mg x 15 tabs = 3600 mg (3.6g)). A sachet of pseudoThis means you will have to visit the pharmacy 2 times a month and worse, know when you visited last so as not to exceed the monthly maximum. You better don’t drop any of those pills.

6. Minors cannot buy this.

18 plus signageWhat if your child is going to a summer camp or somewhere and you need to cover the basis to ensure a pleasant travel experience? Minors cannot buy these things remember.

Alright. Read our tips to avoid all these pitfalls in the future. We are here to make life easier for you.

Best Solution: Get A Prescription

If you or your household suffer from allergy symptoms that include congestion, be sure to ask a doctor for a prescription on your next visit. Do this at a yearly physical or if you go in for something else.Prescription for pseudoephedrine

Be sure you tell the prescriber why you need a prescription. Most of the time, they would just tell you to ask for it behind the pharmacy counter and not give you one. They have no clue what you have to go through to get it.

There are many benefits when you get a prescription for pseudoephedrine. Here are some.

1. You don’t have to show your ID.

No idJust pick up your prescription like you would any other prescription. No need to show your ID and no stigma attached. You get the same privacy rules, HIPAA and other laws that apply to prescription pick-ups.
Here is the thing. You must tell the pharmacy staff to process it as a prescription. Or else, we would just hand the paper back to you and tell you the insurance won’t pay for it because the medication is over-the-counter and then ask for your ID. Tell us you would like it to be filled as a prescription even though the insurance won’t pay for it.

2. You can put it on your HSA or FSA card.

Credit cardMost Health savings or flexible savings accounts exclude the purchase of over-the-counter medications. With a prescription for pseudoephedrine, you can pay for it with your health savings or flexible savings card. If you have a household of just three allergy sufferers, you are looking at over $100 per month or $1200 per year on pseudoephedrine purchase alone.

3. Daily and Monthly quantity limits do not apply.

No daily calendarThis is the number one reason you should ask for a prescription for pseudoephedrine. You can get up to a six-month supply with a valid prescription. We suggest you have your doctor write it as a one month supply with 5 refills. Writing for 6 months supply will trigger extra calls to the doctor’s office. Do this only if you are going out of the country or something.

4. Tax-free and tax deductible.

Tax freeSome states require you to pay tax for behind-the-counter pseudoephedrine purchase but not for prescriptions. Moreover, you can deduct it as part of your medical expenses since it would show up on your end of year prescription profile or history.

5. Becomes part of your prescription profile.

Male profileFilling pseudoephedrine as a prescription automatically becomes part of your prescription profile. Should you have an emergency hospital visit, the pharmacy can access this information and provide it to the emergency medical staff who would like to know what medications you are on.

6. Legal protection for your medication history.

ShieldYou will get the same legal protection as you would for prescription medications. If you bought it behind-the-counter, law enforcement authorities can just walk into a pharmacy and ask for your pseudoephedrine purchase history. By law, the pharmacy will have to comply. With prescriptions, it takes extra steps that will include your consent and possibly a court order. HIPAA and other privacy laws will have to be followed.

7. Drug interaction checks.

Interaction illustrationPseudoephedrine can cause serious drug interactions with other prescription medications. They can increase the heart rate or blood pressure for instance. Filling it as a prescription makes it part of your profile and a pharmacy computer system will run a check of any medications you are taking against it and alert the pharmacist to any potential drug interaction problems.

8. Same price as OTC.

Price tagGuess what? Filling it as a prescription does not add to the cost. It will be the same price as getting it over-the-counter.

Alright, those are some of the reasons to get a prescription for pseudoephedrine if you are in constant need for a decongestant.

Some states actually require you to have a prescription to purchase pseudoephedrine. If you want to avoid the headaches of purchasing over-the-counter pseudoephedrine behind the counter, we strongly recommend you get a prescription from your healthcare provider.

If you know someone who suffers from allergy symptoms, please share this article with them using the social links below.

Did you know pseudoephedrine was actually a prescription medication until the FDA made it over-the-counter as early as 1976 against the objection and warnings from the DEA?


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