A Missouri-based pharmaceutical manufacturer has started shipping a new product law enforcement officials hope will lead to a reduction in the number of methamphetamine laboratories in the state.
Highland Pharmaceuticals, based in Maryland Heights, is now selling its Zephrex-D product in some locations.
The Branson Tri-Lakes News called pharmacies in Branson, Hollister and Forsyth and found no locations where the product is currently for sale, however.
Sasha Kramer, owner and pharmacist at Kramer’s Forsyth Pharmacy, said the product is not being offered for sale through his wholesale provider.
Highland representatives told St. Louis media the product is first being tested in the St. Louis market because of its proximity to the company’s headquarters and the state’s reputation as the meth capitol of the country.
St. Louis-area counties and municipalities have already begun approving exemptions for tamper-resistant products. At least one other company, based in Chicago, is working on a similar product.
Zephrex-D, Highland’s new formula for pseudoephedrine, a vital ingredient needed to make meth and used legitimately to treat cold and allergy symptoms, is being marketed with the slogan “pure, powerful, protected.”
The product uses a lipid-based delivery system to make extraction of the pseudoephedrine from the pills practically impossible, said Detective Sgt. Jason Grellner, a sheriff’s deputy in Franklin County and head of a multijurisdictional drug task force.
He has been pushing municipalities around the state to pass pseudoephedrine prescription ordinances for several years.
Lynn Morris, owner of Family Pharmacy, which has 26 locations including many in the Tri-Lakes Area, said he isn’t so sure about the new medication, however.
Morris said he thinks the drug needs to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Grellner told the Tri-Lakes News that no such approval is needed, however, because pseudoephedrine is already an FDA-approved medication.
“Zephrex-D uses already-approved ingredients,” he said. “It’s been tested in multiple labs.”
Grellner said law enforcement agencies in Missouri also have tested the product, attempting to use it to manufacture meth through known clandestine lab methods, and were unable to do so.
He said Highland’s new product also is shown to be very effective.
“They did efficacy tests on the bioavailability (of pseudoephedrine) in the blood stream, the first since the 1970s,” Grellner said. “It is safe, it works and you can’t use it to make meth. There’s no longer a reason to argue.”
Morris, who was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in August, said he is hoping to reduce the amount of pseudoephedrine people can buy. He has spoken out previously in opposition to the pseudoephedrine prescription requirements passed in Branson, Hollister and other communities.
Morris said he wants to reduce the amount of pseudoephedrine people can buy legally to one box a week and four to five grams a month. Currently, he said, people can buy up to nine grams a month.
Existing Missouri laws allow a person to buy up to nine grams, the equivalent of roughly three boxes of 96 pills each, every month for 12 consecutive months.
Earlier this year state Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, attempted to amend a Missouri Senate bill to lower that limit to 2.88 grams, or one box, per month for eight consecutive months.
Schatz said his figure was based on an estimated 30 milligram dose taken every eight hours for 30 days, far more than the recommended limit.
The proposed amendment failed, however.
Morris said what he is proposing is different, noting that Schatz’s proposal did not include a one-box per week limitation.
“I want to work with manufacturers to find a way to make the product available to the 97 to 99 percent of the population who needs (pseudoephedrine) for its legit purposes,” Morris said.
Grellner said he strongly disagreed with Morris’ proposed solution.
“It’s people like Mr. Morris who are the problem, they are headed to Jefferson City without even knowing the facts,” he said.
Grellner said 90 percent of pseudoephedrine sales, a sharp difference from Morris’ 1-3 percent, go to the manufacture of meth.
He said the drug nets $1.2 million in sales in Missouri a year.
Morris said if he can’t get a reduction in the limit on pseudoephedrine people can purchase passed in the House and Senate, he’ll work toward a statewide prescription-only requirement.
Grellner said new products like Zephrex are the best solution.
“I don’t get how people can be against it at this point,” Grellner said. “Whether you use the stuff or not, it is now safe. You don’t have to worry about the car next to you blowing up on the interstate because there’s a meth lab inside it.”