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Keywords:

  • methamphetamine;
  • nasal decongestant;
  • phenylephrine;
  • pseudoephedrine

The aim of this review was to investigate the rationale for replacing the nasal decongestant pseudoephedrine (PDE) with phenylephrine (PE) as a means of controlling the illicit production of methamphetamine. A literature search was conducted in electronic databases and use of textbooks. Restrictions have been placed on the sale of PDE in the USA in an attempt to control the illicit production of methamphetamine. This has caused a switch from PDE to PE in many common cold and cough medicines. PE is a poor substitute for PDE as an orally administered decongestant as it is extensively metabolized in the gut and its efficacy as a decongestant is unproven. Both PDE and PE have a good safety record, but the efficacy of PDE as a nasal decongestant is supported by clinical trials. Studies in the USA indicate that restricting the sale of PDE to the public as a medicine has had little impact on the morbidity and number of arrests associated with methamphetamine abuse. Restricting the sale of PDE in order to control the illicit production of methamphetamine will deprive the public of a safe and effective nasal decongestant and force the pharmaceutical industry to replace PDE with PE, which may be an ineffective decongestant. Restrictions on sales of PDE to the public may not reduce the problems associated with methamphetamine abuse.