For the most part, I love living in the future. I carry around a computer in my pocket that is thousands of times more powerful than the computer that accompanied men to the moon, for instance. But one of the things I dislike about the current state of our modern capitalist society is that it is nearly impossible to buy certain kinds of over-the-counter medicine.
Because of all the corporate mergers, selloffs, partial acquisitions, and so forth, you can’t go to a drugstore or pharmacy section of the grocery store and quickly find a familiar medication. For instance, when you’re suffering a particular set of allergy symptoms that you know used to respond best to Comtrex. You may find boxes labeled Comtrex on the shelf, but now instead of having he ingredients that used to be found in Comtrex, they contain exactly the same ingredients that used to be found in Tylenol Cold.
Similarly, in the old days, I could buy Tylenol Cold & Allergy, and be certain that is contained an analgesic for the headache, a decongestant for the sinus congestion, and an antihistamine for the hay fever. It doesn’t, any more. Now it contains analgesic, decongestant, and an expectorant (to help you get mucous out of your lungs). Lung congestion is not typically an allergy symptom, it’s a flu symptom. They should have the expectorant in the Tylenol Cold & Flu… but they don’t. What they have in Tylenol Cold & Flu is a cough suppressant, which might also be useful with the flu, but what would be better is the expectorant which is over in the allergy-labeled brand for absolutely no good reason.
And don’t get me started on why you can’t buy a cold or allergy medication containing actual pseudo-ephedrine any longer thanks to misguided anti-methamphetamine regulations that did absolutely nothing to slow down the cheap manufacture of meth. Now we get “Sudafed” (the brand name belonging to the company that first patented pseudo-ephedrine and named by phonetically spelling the name of the active ingredient) that contains no “sudafed” at all, but rather phenylephrine, which clinical trials have shown is not an effective substitute for the vast majority of people.
On really bad hay fever days, as I’ve been having for about a week, what I need is a medication that contains acetaminophen, pseudo-ephedrine, and diphenhydramine or chlorpheniramine (analgesic, decongestant, antihistamine), in a tablet that is a nice, safe dose. And I do mean the safe dose. Back when I could find that combination, the recommended does of 2 tablets every 4 to 6 hours was seldom what I needed to take to get relief. One tablet every four hours was usually perfect.
The closest I found on the day last week I was shopping, was Nyquil-branded “Night Time Cold Caps” which contain phenylephrine instead of the pseudo-ephedrine. It’s close, but much more expensive that any generics.
I can buy plain acetaminophen, plain pseudo-ephedrine, and plain chlorpheniramine. To get the pseudo-ephedrine you have to wait in line at the pharmacy counter, tell them what you want, then wait for them to dig the giant notebook out of the secure location. They will then scrutinize your photo ID, fill out a form, make you read a statement and sign the form before selling you this drug which was FDA certified for over-the-counter sales decades ago (and is still perfectly safe if all you are going to do is swallow a pill every 6 hours as recommended). But here’s the thing: box of 24 generic cold tablets with two of the ingredients I want and one I don’t costs just a little bit less than the stand-alone pseudo-ephedrine. Likewise, the stand-alone chlorpheniramine, and the stand-alone acetaminophen.
In other words, to put together my manual version of the generic tablet that has the right ingredients costs a bit more the three times as much as buying any of the already packaged tablets with nearly the right ingredients. And I have three times as many pills to keep track of, and the real kicker? They often recommend different times between doses. So I’m trying to keep track of one pill that I’m only supposed to take every six hours along with some that I’m supposed to take every four…
The answer is, obviously, to buy the Nyquil branded stuff, which has most of what I want, is more expensive than generic but less expensive than the collection of stand-alones. Which I did. It annoys me that the box is covered with all these dire warnings about taking them at night because they might cause drowsiness. And they there are sold in enormous gel caps, which seem to degrade more than the regular tablets. At least I don’t have trouble swallowing the giant capsules. Unlike my poor husband, who gags on the big gel caps.
Not that the meds are helping as much as I’d like.