Willingness-to-accept pharmaceutical retail inconvenience: evidence from a contingent choice experiment

PLoS One. 2015 May 29;10(5):e0126790. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0126790. eCollection 2015.


Objectives: Restrictions on retail purchases of pseudoephedrine are one regulatory approach to reduce the social costs of methamphetamine production and use, but may impose costs on legitimate users of nasal decongestants. This is the first study to evaluate the costs of restricting access to medications on consumer welfare. Our objective was to measure the inconvenience cost consumers place on restrictions for cold medication purchases including identification requirements, purchase limits, over-the-counter availability, prescription requirements, and the active ingredient.

Methods: We conducted a contingent choice experiment with Amazon Mechanical Turk workers that presented participants with randomized, hypothetical product prices and combinations of restrictions that reflect the range of public policies. We used a conditional logit model to calculate willingness-to-accept each restriction.

Results: Respondents' willingness-to-accept prescription requirements was $14.17 ($9.76-$18.58) and behind-the-counter restrictions was $9.68 ($7.03-$12.33) per box of pseudoephedrine product. Participants were willing to pay $4.09 ($1.66-$6.52) per box to purchase pseudoephedrine-based products over phenylephrine-based products.

Conclusions: Restricting access to medicines as a means of reducing the social costs of non-medical use can imply large inconvenience costs for legitimate consumers. These results are relevant to discussions of retail access restrictions on other medications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Consumer Behavior*
  • Costs and Cost Analysis*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / economics*
  • Humans
  • Legislation, Pharmacy
  • Male
  • Nonprescription Drugs / supply & distribution*
  • Pharmacy
  • Pseudoephedrine / supply & distribution*


  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Pseudoephedrine

Grant support

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation award SMA-1004569 (www.nsf.gov, KF SC) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Public Health Law Research award 70509, http://publichealthlawresearch.org/, KF SC). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.