To fight methamphetamine, Missouri cities and counties, although not St. Louis County, are passing ordinances requiring prescriptions to purchase pseudoephedrine products like Claritin-D and Allegra-D.
Pseudoephedrine is the key meth-making ingredient needed to make the drug. It is extracted from popular allergy medications and converted into meth.
Zephrex-D, manufactured by Maryland Heights-based Highland Pharmaceuticals, is a new pseudoephedrine product that police and the drug's maker hope will stop meth cooks in their tracks.
"St. Louis is our test market, and it's our opportunity to get some consumer learning and make sure all of our systems are going to work before we roll out nationally," Paul Hemings, with Highland Pharmaceuticals, tells Patch. "The reason we picked St. Louis, one we're headquartered here, and two, Missouri has the largest meth problem in the U.S. It's considered 'Meth Capitol U.S.A.' So what better place to start?"
In November, Hemings said the new drug will be available in six or seven counties in the St. Louis metro area only, including St. Louis, St. Charles and Jefferson counties.
"It will hit the St. Louis area in early November. There are national retailers who are carrying this product," Hemings tells Patch, but he is not releasing the pharmacy names yet.
As it stands today, Zephrex-D will be behind the counter at the pharmacies because of how all pseudoephedrine products are regulated in Missouri. They are required to be behind the pharmacy counter, require and ID to purchase them and there is a limit to how much can be purchased at a time. Some cities and counties also require a prescription to purchase all drugs containing pseudoephedrine. However, Hemings said his company has applied exemptions to those rules through the DEA.
"We don't know if it takes 32 months or six months to get the exemption. We believe we will get the exemption," Hemings said.
The exemption could allow Zethrex-D, and other pseudoephedrine products that are proven to be unable to be converted into meth, to either not require a prescription to purchase or they could even be sold out in the store with other over-the-counter medications.
As previously reported by Patch, a state law is in the works that requires a prescription for pseudoephedrine so cities and counties don't have to pass individual ordinances. The bill would not only make it a statewide law to require people to have a prescription to purchase most pseudoephedrine products, but it would also allow an exemption for some newly developed allergy products, including Zephrex-D, that can't be made into meth.
The state law would be similar to the St. Charles County ordinance, which already has exemption language built into it that states pseudoephedrine products require a prescription unless it can be demonstrated that the product cannot be converted to meth.