Pharmaceutical companies sniffing out solutions for abuse

Leslie Schelat

In an effort to help crack down on methamphetamine production, some pharmaceutical companies are voluntarily making pseudophedrine-free decongestant medications.

Sudafed PE, which is available at CVS in Kent, is one of several new pseudophedrine-free products. Phizer, the company that makes Sudafed PE, will continue producing other products with pseudophedrine.

Proctor and Gamble will discontinue sales of all products with pseudophedrine by the end of the year. This includes cold and sinus medicines NyQuil and DayQuil.

Pseudophedrine, the chemical used to make methamphetamine, or crystal meth, is found in many over-the-counter and prescription decongestant medicines. The medicine is boiled and mixed with household items to make methamphetamines.

The active ingredient in new medicines such as Sudafed PE is phenylephrine, an alternative type of decongestant. It is not as effective as pseudophedrine, but is more expensive and difficult to convert into methamphetamine.

“A few people hurt a lot of people,” said pharmacist Jim Hostler at the University Health Center. “It’s less effective. We’re not left with very many decongestants.”

Hostler said that medications with pseudophedrine will still be available by prescription, but their sale will be more restricted.

Until more pseudophedrine-free products are available in drugstores, local businesses are doing what they can to combat theft and abuse of over-the-counter medications.

“When you scan certain products, it comes up to ask for I.D.,” said Evelyn Tuttle, assistant manager at CVS on Water Street.

CVS also limits the amount of medicine a customer can purchase at a time.

Asking for identification and imposing limits on the number of boxes customers can buy are only some of the precautions drugstores are taking.

Both CVS and Walgreens in Kent keep some over-the-counter medicines containing pseudophedrine behind the front counter. CVS has employed this policy since last winter.

The Health Center will also continue to sell these medications in small quantities.

While some states have passed laws requiring over-the-counter drugs to be kept behind pharmacy counters, there currently is no national law requiring the action.

The Combat Meth Act, which may require stores to keep products with pseudophedrine behind pharmacy counters, was approved by the U.S. Senate and is awaiting a vote from the House of Representatives.

The bill would also limit the amount of pseudophedrine a person can purchase as well as reserve $18 million for methamphetamine research on addicts and their children.

According to the Portage Count Prosecutor’s office, during the last year, there have been 35 methamphetamine-related charges in Portage County. Neighboring Summit County leads the state in the number of labs found last year with 104.

People who make meth boil over-the-counter cold and allergy decongestants until the pseudophedrine separates out. It is then used to make methamphetamine.

Contact general assignment reporter Leslie Schelat at [email protected].