The Night and Day Pharmacy in Tweed Heads, pictured with pharmacist Brian Curran, was hit by drug thieves on three occasions last year.
The Night and Day Pharmacy in Tweed Heads, pictured with pharmacist Brian Curran, was hit by drug thieves on three occasions last year. Tweed Daily News

Crims put our health at risk

SNIVELLING drug thieves are costing Tweed residents their health, with chemists now too scared to sell cold and flu medication.

Pseudoephedrine, a drug found in cold and flu tablets, is used in the manufacture of illegal amphetamines, making chemists a major target for robberies.

But some Tweed pharmacists are refusing to fall victim to drug thieves, choosing instead to remove pseudoephedrine products from their shelves in favour of alternative medication.

But health authorities say it is cold and flu sufferers who are paying the price for this, especially during the annual flu season.

Dr Graeme Burger, Tweed Valley Division of General Practice spokesman, said pseudoephedrine was being replaced by antihistamine products which were not as effective.

“Pseudoephedrine is a symptomatic control,” Dr Burger said.

“It stops runny noses and sneezes and dries you out. It makes you feel better.

“The alternatives are mostly antihistamine-based. They work in a slightly different way and are probably not quite as effective.”

Dr Burger said it was a sad state of affairs when the average sick person couldn't buy cold and flu tablets.

“It's a sad part of life these days,” he said.

“An effective symptomatic relief has been taken off the shelves because people who make illegal amphetamines have become so desperate they have to resort to breaking into chemists. It is a price we all have to pay.”

For the majority of last year, Tweed's pharmacies were being robbed at a rate of one per month.

Thieves broke into the Pottsville Beach Pharmacy in July last year, but the bumbling crooks only managed to steal products without pseudoephedrine.

Pharmacist Colin Murdock said he was aware that some pharmacies had stopped stocking cold and flu medication.

“I certainly have heard that there are some pharmacies that are refusing to sell pseudoephedrine products due to the time and extra cost involved,” he said.

“The Pharmacy Guild has come up with quite rigid guidelines for the purchase and stock of these products and I certainly follow those.”

People wanting to buy pseudoephedrine medication have to surrender photo identification and have their details recorded.

Mr Murdock said the new formulation of cold and flu products had seen pseudoephedrine replaced with another nasal decongestant, which he said may not be as effective.

When contacted yesterday, a number of other pharmacists were too fearful to talk on the record.

One pharmacist has stopped stocking pseudoephedrine products and was willing to pass up on sales for fear of being robbed.

Another still stocks a small amount of the product, but will only sell it to regular customers.

Meantime, Dr Burger said that people could minimise the spread of germs by following “flu etiquette”.

“It's the flu season coming on, there's a lot of flu in the community,” he said. “We're encouraging flu etiquette - telling people not to go to work so they don't spread it to their co-workers, wash their hands well, always sneeze into a handkerchief and cover your mouth when you cough.”

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