Blunt looks to limit meth ingredients

Over-the-counter cold medicine sales could face restrictions.
Sunday, January 23, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:37 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Gov. Matt Blunt announced Friday he has gained the support of the Missouri General Assembly to pass legislation that would control the key ingredient used to manufacture methamphetamine in illegal labs, pseudoephedrine. This law also applies to ephedrine, which is another form of the same drug.

Methamphetamine, or “meth,” is a stimulant drug that affects the central nervous system. It causes hyperactivity, decreased appetite and sometimes violence.

Blunt’s proposal would restrict access to pseudoephedrine and other over-the-counter cold and allergy medications containing the drug ephedrine. If passed, the bill would require products containing ephedrine to be kept behind pharmacy counters. This proposal requires individuals purchasing these products to show photo ID and to sign a log kept by the pharmacy. The quantity of pseudoephedrine an individual could buy in one month would be restricted to nine grams.

Bob Pryor, a pharmacist at Walgreens in Columbia, said the pharmacy is already taking the measures Blunt is proposing.

“It works,” he said. “You ask everyone for their driver’s license. Those people who are not requesting Sudafed for cold medication are reserved and do not want to present their driver’s license. They literally turn around and run out.”

Pryor said Walgreens is currently cooperating with law enforcement officials, informing them if pharmacists think a customer’s behavior is irregular with regards to cold medicines containing ephedrine.

Maj. Tom Reddin of the Boone County Sheriff’s Department said new laws would help in minimizing labs.

“One cannot make meth without pseudoephedrine,” he said.

Besides pseudoephedrine, found in common cold medication such as NyQuil, meth cooks use household items such as rubbing alcohol, acetone, rock salt and lithium batteries, according to the Web site for the Sheriff’s Department of Green County.

According to the White House drug policy, the highest rate of (meth) lab activity in the nation occurs in Missouri.

“Meth smells when it’s being cooked. In the southern portion of Missouri it is easier to cook because of the relative population. People are more spread out,” Boone County Sheriff Dwayne Carey said.

According to Reddin, Boone County law enforcement seized 11 meth labs and made 15 arrests in 2003. In 2004, restructuring of the drug enforcement unit of the Sheriff’s Department caused numbers of meth-related incidents to drop. County officials have already seized one lab this year.

“Photo IDs and logs of ephedrine would definitely be a viable tracking method to identify those who are buying these products to cook meth,” Reddin said.

Darran Alberty, treasurer for the Missouri Pharmacy Association and a pharmacist at D&H Prescription Drug Store in Columbia, said that current law only requires products containing ephedrine to be kept behind the pharmacy counter or within 10 feet of the cashier.

He explained how the state’s Pharmacy Association is looking at the legislation.

“We are first concerned with patient safety and then with the practice of pharmacy. We don’t want any undue burden placed on pharmacies by legislation.”

Alberty said that the advantage of Blunt’s proposal is clear. “We can all benefit from measures aimed at stopping the meth problem.”

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