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March 1st, 2006 Adrian Chen | Rogue of the Week
 

Hogil Pharmaceutical Corporation

     
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Big Pharma certainly is entitled to profit from others' ills. But this week's Rogue takes that to an absurd extreme with its shameless attempt at cashing in on meth-related hysteria.

New York-based Hogil Pharmaceutical Corporation pitches Sine-Off, a brand of over-the-counter cough and sinus medication available locally at Fred Meyer, Kmart and other stores.

You may have heard the spots on Portland radio that claim the medicine tackles sneezing, fever, housefires and vandalism. The product website (www.sineoff.com) boasts how Sine-Off "works to fight colds, flus, sinus congestion and the devastating effects of Meth abuse."

No, Sine-Off won't help a meth-head kick the habit. What it does is deprive addicts of one product that's been used to make their drug of choice, because Sine-Off was reformulated last year. It now uses phenylephrine as its active ingredient in lieu of the meth-precursor pseudoephedrine. Is the move sheer corporate altruism, as Hogil might have us believe?

"We're not about cashing in on anyone's misfortune," says Hogil spokesman Sean Evans. And to Hogil's credit, it has donated some money to the nonprofit Partnership for a Drug-Free America (Evans declined to specify the amount).

But suggesting the company didn't have one eye squarely on the bottom line when it made the switch—and started an ad campaign that says Sine-Off fights meth abuse—is BS. Oregon and more than 35 other states have severely restricted the sale of medications containing pseudoephedrine. Similar federal laws are in the works. A switch to phenylephrine therefore means more sales, which Hogil isn't the only drug company to realize. Pfizer already has a phenylephrine-based Sudafed on the market, while brands from Vicks to Alka-Seltzer are also releasing pseudoephedrine-free products. The only thing unique about Sine-Off is that the entire line is pseudoephedrine-free, while other brands still make some products using the ingredient.

But if a lack of pseudoephedrine makes something "anti-meth," WW has those suckers beat: We've been pseudoephedrine-free since 1974. No reformulations necessary.

 
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