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Pharmacies’ Switch Could Help Drop the Number of Community Meth Labs

methlabsdojThere is a trend developing among pharmacy chains that is impacting meth production in a positive way. Their efforts, as simple as they may be, are reportedly connected to a decline in the number of methamphetamine labs in their areas, all without enacting costly legislation changes. The pharmacies are simply making a change in the type of pseudoephedrine (PSE) products they sell, switching to meth-resistant PSE products.

Since the switchover started two years ago, illegitimate PSE sales and the number of meth labs in areas of the country have dropped, particularly in West Virginia and Tennessee. Nearly 30,000 pharmacies across the nation have started stocking this new type of PSE over the past two years. This new type of medication includes technology that makes it harder to convert the cold medicine into methamphetamine.

For pharmacies, stocking meth-resistant cold medications is a simple way to provide customers with the over-the-counter medicine they have always relied on to treat their cold symptoms. Plus, this switch keeps methamphetamine producers looking elsewhere.

West Virginia pharmacies, including CVS, Rite Aid and the Fruth Pharmacy chain, have taken further measures. They removed traditional single-ingredient PSE products from their locations and replaced them with meth-resistant formulations. Since the pharmacies stopped carrying Sudafed and its store-brand generic equivalents, authorities say West Virginia has seen a 30 percent drop in PSE sales. Several counties in Tennessee that also adopted similar programs report significant decreases in PSE sales.

In several states across the country, lawmakers are gearing up to debate whether PSE should require a prescription. While PSE has long been an ingredient that consumers have relied on to treat nasal congestion, it is also one of the main ingredients used to make methamphetamine. Should the legislation pass, consumers would be required to get a prescription for cold medications like Sudafed and its generic counterparts.

Advocates of the prescription-only legislation believe that it will be more difficult for methamphetamine producers to get their hands on PSE products, which would in-turn decrease meth-related crime and lab incidents. Others argue that requiring a prescription for these cold medications punishes innocent cold and allergy sufferers, who would be required to sacrifice extra time and money for doctors’ visits to acquire the prescription.

Meth-resistant cold-medications won’t solve the ever-broadening methamphetamine addiction and abuse problem, but data shows the meth-resistant medications are making a difference in reducing illegitimate PSE sales and domestic methamphetamine production. This means a lessening the collateral damage of domestic meth labs: fires caused by lab explosions, the cost of foster care for children whose parents are drug users and toxic waste from the chemicals used to make the dangerous drug. All of these are desirable outcomes without requiring legislation.