I started feeling sick on Thursday and the symptoms – sore throat, headache, runny nose – were close enough to those of the H1N1 virus that I went to the chemist on my way home to stock up on supplies.
My usual drug regime for a cold is to take pseudoephedrine during the days and codeine and whiskey at night, but the chemist I went to didn’t have any medications containing pseudoephedrine – they all had an alternative decongestant called phenylephrine. This rang a dim bell at the back of my mind – hadn’t I read a paper or study about phenylephrine? – but I was too sick to care. I paid and went home to bed.
Yesterday I was still sick as hell but I ventured out anyway to buy some more drugs: the first and nearest chemist didn’t have pseudoephedrine, the second did but not on display – you had to ask the pharmacist and he bought me some from the drug locker in the back of his store. There are indications that the government will make pseudoephedrine a prescription only drug, but it seems like they’re already half way there. The chemists don’t want to stock it because people try to break into the store and steal it to manufacture P, and when they sell it they have to go through the hassle of recording peoples name and drivers license details. So they’re switching over to phenylephrine based solutions.
The big problem with this is that phenylephrine doesn’t do anything. Take it from me, I’m a walking control set – I took it for three days and I went through more tissues than a teenage boy with broadband internet. For the last two days I’ve been on pseudoephedrine based medication and the difference is stark, especially since I soaked the pills in ether, mixed them up with red phosphorus and HCl and smoked them.
Just my little joke – but if you (wisely) consider me an unreliable source then there are plenty of studies on Pubmed contesting the efficacy of phenylephrine. The pharmaceutical companies insist that it works but most independent clinical trials indicate that it’s little better than a placebo. This study from the University of Vienna seems to be the most recent one, the results:
Phenylephrine was not significantly different from placebo in the primary end point, mean change in nasal congestion score at more than 6 hours (P = .56), whereas pseudoephedrine was significantly more effective than both placebo (P < .01) and phenylephrine (P = .01)
It’s unfortunate that P hysteria and the swine flu are peaking at the same time so that chemists are de-stocking one of the only drugs that’s effective at treating the symptoms; my advice is not to waste your money on phenylephrine: go to the counter and ask for the good shit, although you might not want to use those exact words.