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Dear FDA: There are much bigger fish to fry than abuse of cough and cold meds

In an earlier posting, we examined the abuse by teenagers of dextromethorphan (DEX or DXM)—a safe and widely used ingredient in many over-the-counter cough and cold medications. We also mentioned that the FDA has scheduled an advisory committee meeting for September 14th to determine if DEX-containing drugs will require stricter purchasing controls.

One of the points made in my related Health News Digest piece was that teen abuse of prescription (rather than OTC) drugs is actually a much bigger problem.

Now, a survey just released by the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest (CMPI) indicates that police officers and high school teachers nationwide believe alcohol and marijuana are the most serious problem substances facing teenagers. In fact, exactly ZERO police officers and only 1 percent of high school teachers cited cough and cold meds as having the greatest impact on teens!

More than that, by a margin of nearly two to one, police officers and high school teachers support educational efforts over reducing accessibility, as a means to address abuse of OTC cough and cold medicines.

It looks as if our FDA—anxious to polish its damaged reputation after the Vioxx, Baycol, Permax, Cylert, and Palladone fiascoes (all of which occurred in the last decade)—is taking the easy way out by catering to the "Save the Children" crowd.

Robert Goldberg, PhD, CMPI vice president, is absolutely right:

"Americans expect to be able to buy cough medicines conveniently at the supermarket or their neighborhood corner store. Overly restricting access to cough and cold products containing dextromethorphan will create more health problems than it will solve, especially during cold and flu seasons. We need to find common sense solutions and invest more resources in education."

A federal policy that will create more problems than it will solve? Imagine that.

Grab more details here.




The bigger fish to fry, as you put it, is not the availability of all these various drugs, but the NON-availability of parental involvement and control over their kiddies. One could never ever stop the crap that children can get at pharmacies, super markets,etc., that can potentially be mind altering. The most common source for these agents is from their "friends."

Good luck to those OTC manufacturers in fighting this nonsense.

Michael Shaw


Very true, but given the rubrics of PC, no one dares mention lack of parental responsibility. Heck, I'm married to a teacher and hear about this almost daily.

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