Bill to raise annual purchase limit on pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) and remove package-per-transaction limit moves to Senate

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

A bill to raise the annual purchase limit on pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient in the decongestant Sudafed, has passed the state House and is in the Senate for consideration.

“This is a pro-consumer, reasonable accommodation for Kentucky families seeking to find relief from congestion associated with the common cold and allergies,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Robert Duvall, R-Bowling Green. “It simply increases access to affordable health care.”

House Bill 386 passed the House Feb. 12 on a vote of 80-9, with Republican Rep. Danny Bentley, a pharmacist from Russell (Greenup County), abstaining.

This bill is in response to Kentucky and federal laws passed in 2005 that restrict the sale of products with pseudoephedrine, which at the time was a key ingredient for methamphetamine production. Kentucky strengthened this law in 2012. Since the passage of these laws, most meth in the U.S. comes from Mexico, according to the  2020 National Drug Threat Assessment report.

“Under current law, a Kentucky resident can only purchase up to a three months’ supply of the decongestant medication spread out over the course of a year, and they cannot purchase more than three packages at a single time,” said a legislative news release. “HB 386 would eliminate these restrictions and replace them with a monthly limit.”

The bill protects the original intent of the legislation, said Duvall. He said Kentucky will continue to be 20% more restrictive than the federal government’s monthly purchase limits.

“Kentucky has one of the strictest pseudoephedrine access laws in the country and will continue to do so,” he said.

The bill would change the current 24-gram annual limit to an 86.4 grams, and remove the limit on the number of packages per transaction.

Duvall said these changes would bring Kentucky’s law closer in line with the rest of the country, and explained why they are needed.

“Under current law, an individual has access to just over three months’ supply of over-the-counter medication per year. This means that individuals with chronic sinus congestion would have to ask their spouse or their other family members to purchase more pseudoephedrine for them after only three months,” he said. “And for reference, the 7.2 gram per month maximum allows these allergy sufferers to take one pill every 24 hours to provide relief.”

He noted, “The current 24-gram annual limit is 78% less than what is typical for an American to purchase annually.”

Duvall said the bill would not change the requirement to show a driver’s license when purchasing the drug and the per-purchase limits will continue.

Duvall also pointed out that pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine are the two main oral decongestants in products available over the counter, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has concluded that phenylephrine in its oral form, as the main ingredient in many popular over-the-counter decongestants, doesn’t thwart nasal congestion.

If pseudoephedrine were pulled from the market, he said, “That would leave only one oral decongestant available over-the-counter.”

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