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Pharmacies Stick by Nicotine Pops

April 15, 2002|LINDA MARSA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Pharmacists say they will continue to make nicotine-laced lollipops despite a federal crackdown on the Internet sale of the smoking-cessation aid.

L.D. King, executive director of the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists, said that making nicotine-spiked products is legal as long as pharmacists abide by the U.S. government's regulations.

"We've advised our members to dispense these lollipops only with a valid prescription, to use childproof packaging, to avoid making any claims as to the effectiveness of these products, and to use FDA-approved ingredients," King said.

The federal Food and Drug Administration had sent warning letters last week to three Internet pharmacies selling nicotine lollipops and nicotine lip balm.

The agency said that the products were being sold without a prescription and that they contained a form of nicotine not tested for safety and effectiveness in smoking cessation.

Also, the FDA said, the products didn't have warning labels or packaging that would prohibit their use by children. The companies have 15 days to respond to the warning letters and let the FDA know they have complied with their request. Owners of two of the companies, Ashland Drug in Ashland, Miss., and the Compounding Pharmacy of Aurora, Ill., said they have stopped selling the lollipops. The third pharmacy, Bird's Hill Pharmacy in Needham, Mass., refused to comment.

Compounding pharmacists operate like old-fashioned apothecaries and formulate special prescription-only medicines.

In the past two years, hundreds of compound pharmacists across the country have been dispensing these nicotine-spiked lollipops as a tool to help their customers stop smoking.

They say these smoking-cessation aids not only curb the craving for tobacco but also satisfy the oral fixation associated with nicotine addiction.

Jeffrey Barris, owner of Pacifica Pharmacy in Torrance, a compounding pharmacy that's been concocting the quit-smoking candies for two years, doesn't plan on making any changes. "I'm already in compliance, so I'm going to do what I've always done," he said. "At the moment, I'm comfortable with that until I'm told otherwise."

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