Pseudoephedrine back on shelves in win for Seymour

Codral, Sudafed and Nurofen cold and flu pills used to contain pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient...
Codral, Sudafed and Nurofen cold and flu pills used to contain pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in making P. They will be allowed to contain pseudoephedrine again next year. Photo: NZ Herald
Pseudoephedrine will be allowed back into cold medications next winter in a win for Act leader David Seymour as part of the new coalition Government.

Seymour campaigned on the promise of reversing the ban on over-the-counter sales of the decongestant.

Speaking after signing a coalition agreement with Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, Seymour, the new minister for regulation, said lifting the ban on pseudoephedrine would be part of “long overdue” health reforms.

Luxon said the coalition deal signed “provid[ed] that the Government [would] progress a range of Act initiatives, and these [would] be supported by New Zealand First”.

The Government banned over-the-counter sales of pseudoephedrine in 2011, with then-prime minister John Key touting it as a way to combat methamphetamine production. Pseudoephedrine is an ingredient of meth.

A drug policy expert told The New Zealand Herald earlier this month the country was so “awash” with methamphetamine that a pseudoephedrine ban was largely “redundant” in stemming supply.

On the election campaign, Seymour said the ban hadn’t worked: “Instead, the evidence shows that gangs continue to produce P and there are no viable alternatives for people who are unwell.”

David Seymour. PHOTO: NZ HERALD
Act leader David Seymour. PHOTO: NZ HERALD
Chemists, however, said that, while pseudoephedrine was an effective decongestant, they were wary about any change, given they were regularly targeted in burglaries and ramraid-style robberies before the ban.

At the time of the ban, it was argued there were effective alternatives, but recent studies have challenged this.

‘Wouldn’t want to go back to those days’

Pharmacist Linda Palmer, of Westmere Pharmacy in Auckland, told the Herald she couldn’t recall a pharmacy before the ban that hadn’t been robbed or ramraided by opportunists hunting out pseudoephedrine.

“People would grab it off the shelves and run out with it, and there were ramraids and other crimes associated with it.

“Policing it was very hard. We had to ask for ID, and there were clearly many drug seekers and others working for people who cooked it.”

Palmer said there was a gap in the market for medicines containing pseudoephedrine.

“It is a very effective medicine and other cold and flu remedies have proven to be ineffective. But I certainly wouldn’t want to go back to those days.”

She wondered whether many pharmacies would choose to stock the medicines, given the risk and the fact there was currently little demand for them as prescription medicines.

She said there would need to be safety protocols around sales, such as a centralised recording system so people couldn’t go from “place to place”.