Giant to Card for OTC Remedies with DXM

Jun 04, 2007

By George Anderson

Giant Food of Landover has joined a host of other retailers that have chosen not to sell over-the-counter (OTC) cough/cold remedies containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to anyone under the age of 18. The 186-store chain will require identification for any shoppers seeking to buy products with DXM that may appear to be underage.

Jamie Miller, manager of public affairs for Giant Food, told the Baltimore Sun, “It’s similar to buying cigarettes – if the cashier has a question, we will ask for verification.”

The division of Royal Ahold has chosen to take this action following continuing reports of teenagers abusing products containing DXM. When taken in high doses, DXM can create a sense of euphoria as well as causing the user to experience hallucinations. On the street, the DXM goes by the names Robo, Skittles, Triple C, Tussin, and Dex. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America estimates 10 percent of teenagers (2.4 million kids) have intentionally abused cough/cold medications to get themselves high.

According to the Sun’s report, there are more than 100 products containing DXM in syrup, lozenge and pill form sold through retail outlets in the U.S.

Back in 2005, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning following the deaths of five teenagers who overdosed on high levels of the raw ingredient dextromethorphan obtained over the internet.

“It’s a sad state of affairs,” Michael M. Gimbel, director of substance abuse education for the Sheppard Pratt Health System, told the Sun in an interview. “We’re slowly but surely emptying the shelves of over-the-counter medicines.”

Several states, according to the Sun report, are considering legislation that would place limits on the number of products containing DXM that consumers can buy at any one shop. No legislation has been passed as of yet.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) issued a press release praising retailers that have taken action to police the sales of products containing DXM. Brooks, Costco, CVS, Eckerd, Rite Aid, Target, Walgreens and Wal-Mart are among the others in addition to Giant Food and other Ahold divisions that require consumers be at least 18 to buy the cough/cold products.

“While education is the most effective tool we have in preventing substance abuse, we feel age restrictions will reinforce our efforts and help parents keep their kids safe,” said Linda A. Suydam, D.P.A., president of CHPA.

Questions: Are further voluntary restrictions such as limiting the number
of items containing DXM that can be sold to a single customer necessary to
address this issue? Is state or federal legislation needed to effectively
deal with the issue? What can retailers do in an environment where it appears
as though we are “slowly but surely emptying the shelves of over-the-counter medicines”?

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4 Comments on "Giant to Card for OTC Remedies with DXM"

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Mark Lilien
14 years 11 months ago

Ben Affleck, on Bill Maher, compared the effectiveness of the “war on drugs” to the “war on terrorism.” Tobacco and alcohol are legally denied to people under 18, and how effective are those laws? Unfortunately, it’s easier for a retailer’s public relations to ban or regulate sales of DXM products, even though the bans and regulations are not likely to achieve any meaningful results.

David Biernbaum
14 years 11 months ago

We are indeed slowly emptying the shelves of over-the-counter medicines, and while making small progress to help alleviate one problem, other problems are resulting without reasonable solutions for drug stores, the retail industry, and most of all, millions of legitimate consumers.

The solutions imposed by the politicians for pseudoephedrine, and now other OTC remedies were the typical, “ready, fire, and then aim” approach without much thought to how it impacts.

Pharmacies and consumers are bogged with long manual procedures that are causing bottle-necked lines in front of pharmacy counters. It seems that pharmacies will need to get larger and wider, and hire more people, at the expense of the OTC area in the self-help area, and that’s too bad for any number of reasons.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
M. Jericho Banks PhD
14 years 11 months ago

Hooray! Yet another way for parents and other authority figures to defer responsibility for the welfare and behavior of children. Retail policies (and laws) prohibiting selling alcohol to minors? Workin’ great, right? How about the retail policies (and laws) regarding selling cigarettes to them? Also working just fine, true?

However, it’s great that some companies try to help in the ways available to them. It sets a great example, and draws attention to an emerging problem.

George Anderson
George Anderson
14 years 11 months ago

There are almost never any “perfect” solutions when it comes to indulging consumers’ desire for speed while balancing it against the need for safety, whether that be in a retail store or moving through an airport. The precaution taken here by requiring ID is prudent. The same approach along with restrictions on the number of packages available for purchase would work in the case of pseudoephedrine, as well. The ID system wouldn’t be “perfect” but it would certainly be better than either sticking with the status quo or moving all products behind the counter. Retailers have already seen that moving private label pseudoephedrine products behind the counter is a losing sales proposition.


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