Senators introduce bill restricting sale of DXM cough-relieving ingredient to adults

WASHINGTON — Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Ark., on Friday introduced the Preventing Abuse of Cough Treatments Act of 2013, which would require retailers to restrict the sale of dextromethorphan-containing products to adults. The bill also would restrict the sale of raw, bulk DXM to FDA-approved entities. 

Many retailers have age restrictions on the sale of DXM products already in place; and similar legislation to this has been enforced in California since 2012. 

“By addressing teens’ easy access to cough syrup, the main cause of the harmful trend of its abuse, my bill will help keep our children safe and lessen the strain cough syrup abuse has put on families, hospitals and law enforcement,” Casey stated. “My common-sense legislation will prevent kids from purchasing a drug that has dangerous consequences when abused to get high, while also ensuring it is available to those with a legitimate need for it.” 

“Our association works to raise national awareness about this troubling behavior, and we are grateful to Sens. Casey and Murkowski for championing this issue on Capitol Hill,” stated Scott Melville, president and CEO for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. “An age restriction on the sale of dextromethorphan would give parents a tool to prevent abuse, as teens who report abusing DXM can easily purchase it themselves. We encourage all parents to monitor the medicines in their homes, to take notice if medicine goes missing and to talk to their teens about the risks of abusing all medicines, including OTC cough medicine.”

The association representing the independent pharmacy community expressed some reservations, however. 

“Community pharmacies support and actively contribute to practical efforts to reduce the abuse of DXM-containing products and other medicines," commented John Coster, SVP government affairs for the National Community Pharmacists Association. "We remain concerned, however, that this legislation will in fact ultimately place unfunded burdens on small pharmacies," he said. Placing age restrictions on DXM products may prompt many pharmacies to move DXM products behind the pharmacy counter, Coster suggested. 

As many as 5% of teenagers report having intentionally taken large doses of DXM for effects that include hallucinations, confusion, blurred vision and loss of motor control. There have been reported cases of abuse of the raw form of DXM, which is extremely potent and sold in “bulk” to manufacturers. In 2005, five teenage boys from three different states died after ingesting DXM powder that they had bought in bulk from an online source. The PACT Act will make it harder for teens to purchase the drug for this dangerous use.

In addition to CHPA, the bipartisan legislation has been endorsed by Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education, the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, the National Consumers League, Partnership at DrugFree.Org, Safe Kids Worldwide and the National Association of School Nurses.

CHPA, the trade association representing the makers of OTC medicines and dietary supplements, has long supported an age restriction, as well as national educational efforts, to curb teen OTC cough medicine abuse through its education campaign. “We are working closely with CHPA on a digital and social media-based prevention effort targeting those teens who actively search online for information on how to abuse DXM,” noted Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of The Partnership at “By embracing an integrated approach, one that underscores the importance of parent-to-teen communication about the risks of medicine abuse, stresses the need to safeguard medicines at home, limits children's access at retail points and employs innovative teen intervention strategies online, we can help curb teen abuse of over-the-counter cough medicine.”


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