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Why Your Pharmacy Might Not Sell You Pseudoephedrine

Cold and flu medicines containing pseudoephedrine are back on the shelves, but pharmacies are adopting a careful approach in who they sell them to.

The Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand (PSNZ) has issued guidance to its members addressing the possibility of inappropriate requests for the drug.

Pseudoephedrine can be used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine - the reason it was banned by the John Key-led National government more than a decade ago, despite its usefulness as a decongestant.

PSNZ president Michael Hammond said the guidance for selling pseudoephedrine was similar to other medicines "that have potential for abuse".

"We've advised our pharmacies if they've got concerns about inappropriate requests that when they're recording the patient details during that transaction, they could ask for proof of ID," he told Morning Report on Friday.

"Also, they could really take the approach of selling the smallest quantity they can on each occasion, and if they're not sure about the individual in front of them, they could refuse to supply the medicine if perhaps there's any evidence of excessive amounts of pseudoephedrine being purchased.

"Or if they're concerned about break-ins.. we would be recommending they stock the smallest amount possible, or they could decide to not stock the medication."

No pharmacy was obliged to stock pseudoephedrine, he said, something he wanted the public to be aware of.

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Nor were they required to sell it to anyone who asked for it.

"Pharmacists take a very individualised approach to care. So they will look at the patient in front of them, the customer, and look at the other medical conditions, the other medications they may be taking, the symptoms they're experiencing and determine, is this the right medicine for them? Is it going to interfere with any other medicines they may be taking? … There are certain individuals that [pseudoephedrine] is not the right treatment for."

Alternatives could include painkillers, anti-inflammatories or nasal sprays, he said.

Pharmacists who did not stock the medication could recommend other places to buy it.

"If they don't stock it, they are still the medicines expert and can advise patients on what the best treatment for them may be - and if that was a medicine containing pseudoephedrine, they could direct them elsewhere," Hammond said.

PSNZ previously called for a "real-time monitoring system so that when pharmacists supplied a drug like pseudoephedrine, they could log into a system that would show them if the person had already been supplied with it", chief executive Helen Morgan-Banda said in a statement.

"That hasn't happened, so our focus now is on looking at how we can offer education resources that aid pharmacists to be able to have appropriate conversations with patients about the right medicine for their presenting condition."

Bringing back pseudoephedrine was an ACT Party promise ahead of last year's election.

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