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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tennessee Law Enforcer Wants Drug Companies To Do More To Fight Meth

This dashboard police video photo shows what authorities say is a mobile shake-and-bake meth lab vehicle burning in August, 2011, in Clarksville, Tenn. (AP)

This dashboard police video photo shows what authorities say is a mobile shake-and-bake meth lab vehicle burning in August, 2011, in Clarksville, Tenn. (AP)

Tennessee’s director of a state task force on methamphetamine use says a drug bust in Mexico earlier this month could help the situation in his state.

The Associated Press reports that most of the meth in Tennessee comes from Mexico. But Tommy Farmer points out that some of it is made right in Tennessee — in people’s homes, garages, and cars.

The Impact Of Meth On Burn Units

A do-it-yourself approach allows people to cook up the drug in a plastic bottle.

But it’s dangerous — something Dr. Jeffrey Guy of Vanderbilt University sees firsthand as a surgeon specializing in burn and trauma surgery. He told us in a recent interview that a third of his patients are meth users.

He also said that drugstores could do more to stop the problem.

Some are putting cold medications that contain pseudoephedrine,which addicts distill to make meth, right next to the Gatorade bottles they cook it in.

Regulating Pseudoephedrine, Meth’s Main Ingredient

In most states pseudoephedrine products are available over the counter, with a range of restrictions. But a number are trying to make it prescription-only– as Oregon and Mississippi have.

Which brings us back to Tommy Farmer, director of the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force.

Farmer was in favor of a prescription-only bill in Tennessee, but his efforts failed after a lobbying effort by drug companies, who succeeded in getting the bill defeated. Instead, a less strict law was created that mandates new technology to track those who buy pseudoephedrine products.

Drug Industry’s Lobby Effort In Tennessee

Farmer says though he thinks the new tracking is a positive step, he still wants a law that goes further and makes pseudoephedrine products only available to those with a prescription.

He argues that there are other products on the market without pseudoephedrine that can have a similar use to customers, which of course drug companies disagree with.

He says that the drug company lobbyists who fought against a prescription-only bill might have a different understanding if they spent more time in Tennessee.

“Come spend some time in our trenches. Come Monday morning, they move onto the next thing,” Farmer said. “Come Monday morning with us, we have to go back to taking the calls or talking to the moms and dads who have lost their children.”

He says that because meth can be homemade with pseudoephedrine, it requires huge resources from law enforcement, that could be put elsewhere.

“While we’re spending 14 hours cleaning up a meth lab, we could be devoting our resources towards dismantling these Mexican meth organizations, instead of having to train and equip our law enforcement to spend hours.. stabilizing and packaging and removing all of these hazardous chemicals from this lab site,” he said.

We reached out to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which lobbies on behalf of drug companies. They provided this statement, from Scott Melville, president and CEO.

“Methamphetamine is an extremely serious problem that deserves a strong and effective regional and national response. Our industry is committed to being part of the solution. However, requiring prescriptions for common cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine— such as Advil Cold & Sinus, Allegra-D, Claritin-D, Mucinex D, and Sudafed —that have been relied on by consumers for years and even decades will not solve the problem of methamphetamine. It will only place new costs and access restrictions on the 18 million law-abiding American families who rely on these medicines for relief of their symptoms each year.

“The common-sense solution is real-time, stop-sale technology that can block the illegal sale of pseudoephedrine before they are obtained by criminals. This approach has been proven to work in the 19 states that have implemented this technology, with over 1.5 million grams of pseudoephedrine blocked in the seven states that have had the system in place long enough to track sales. Electronic blocking technology also provides law enforcement with important leads on potential methamphetamine users so they can focus their limited resources on criminals, not consumers seeking cost-effective healthcare remedies.

“Law-abiding consumers should not be forced to bear the burden of a prescription mandate. Of the 21 states that have implemented policies aimed at addressing the methamphetamine problem, 19 have chosen to adopt proven technology that targets criminals while protecting patient access to nonprescription medicines that many cold and allergy sufferers depend on for relief.”

Associated Press National meth lab busts up in 2011


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  • http://twitter.com/Dave_Eger Dave Eger

    Meth is a terrible drug, but one way or the other, people will find ways to make it if they really want it. Perhaps an alternative strategy is to lessen restriction on safer drugs like cannabis that are much less toxic to produce. This would give people an alternative that would take a lot less effort to get, so that less would get hooked and the demand for meth would be reduced. Weed has a lot of potential to increase our GNP if we just allow it to be recognized as being produced and realize that it is no worse than alcohol, and in many ways safer.

    • Ayn Marx 666

      Very true, in my arrogant opinion.  Meth does really seem like a bad drug—as Frank Zappa used to say in P.S.A.s ‘Speed will turn you into your parents,’ and I think it does even worse than that awful prospect.

      However, lots of things are bad, in my opinion, but should not be illegal…and there might be people who latch onto speed who might latch onto pot if it were available, rather than keep on trying to get what they can’t get from speed.

      More generally, I think the only reasonable corrective to drug abuse—both effective and proportionate—is to have it out in the open, so people, especially younger siblings and associates, can see just how bad such can make things…which in some cases may well be ‘not that bad’, but others be ‘easily life-ruining’.  (One look at ex-student D—- W—– was enough to make me extremely leery about acid; younger brothers’ and sisters’ seeing their crack-addicted elders helped to break the back of the worst of the crack epidemic.)

      That is to say, the extremely negative effects of arrest and incarceration drown out the signal of the very real problems with all drugs; similarly, the coolness of the forbidden can drown out an honest evaluation of whether the drug were worth its ills.

      (Where drugs have long-term effects that don’t work with this simple feedback mechanism—viz esp. nicotine, which can take decades to harm you—public education is essential.  Science-fictionally, if anyone should come up with something which were instantly and permanently addicting [quitting==death], then I would see the point of banning it.)

  • Jim

    If you want to have an impact, you should be NAMING the drug companies which manufacture and sell  pseudoephedrine.   Why let them hide behind the trade group?  What good does it do to get me and many other upset with their greed and self serving lobbying efforts when we do not which companies to call, write, boycott?

  • http://www.facebook.com/sbkasha Sherrie Bandy

    I live in Oregon.  The argument that making pseudoephedrine a prescription only drug will cause a negative impact to law abiding citizens who are only seeking relief from colds and allergies is complete and utter rubbish!  There are plenty, and I mean, plenty, of other OTC medications that can and are used effectively for relief.  I use Afrin nasal spray when I’m severely congested.  I use Mucinex when I have chest congestion.  Both are far more effective than pseudoephedrine. 
    I am under a doctor’s care for my allergies.  But, guess what?  The medications he said are the most effective are OTC – Zyrtec and Allegra.

  • John

    I am an assistant public defender in a rural tennessee district.  I see a tremendous amount of meth addiction from locally produced meth.   Meth is not the modern day equilivant to moonshine.   Well made moonshine never killed anyone; any meth does kill people.   If 
    pseudoephedrine products were made in gel form, my client’s couldn’t make meth because they couldn’t separate out the right chemicals to make meth.  In my mind, it is unconscionable for the Tennessee legislature to continue to allow drug companies to sell a product that KILLS people when a simple solution is available.  The real crime involved with meth making is how the Tennessee General Assembly continues to refuse to cut off the problem at the source.  Requiring a prescription is one option and, according to a recent NYT op ed piece, completely eradicated meth making in one western state.

  • Annette Jolin

    Today’s Oregonian newspaper (Portland daily) has an editorial on the Oregon law restricting the over-the-counter sale of drugs containing pseudo-ephedrine.  It’s effectiveness is questioned.  
    What rarely comes up in conversations on this topic  is the cost to persons who have to rely on such drugs. The cost  is substantial and insurance companies don’t cover this essentially “over-the-counter” remedy. For example, I now pay $ 173.95 (after Medicare & Supplemental) for a 3 months supply of Claritin D-12 which appears to be the only drug my physician and I have found to work for me.  I am a  long-time allergy sufferer (pneumonia and chronic bronchitis are prominent in  my medical history).  

  • Mgooding

    I use pseudoephedrine because I have found it works better than anything else I have tried (many, many other products) for congestion. I am prone to pneumonia and bronchitis. I live in California and we have to obtain it from a pharmacy and show our ID and are limited to one package per week. Meth makers generally get their supplies from Mexico or other non-USA location. Give me a break. I am a law-abiding citizen who just wants to be able to breath freely.

  • Bgc

    The pseudoephedrine substitutes simply don’t work as well.  For example to get the same blood serum concentration of phenylephrine HCL requires 3.3 times as much of it as  pseudoephedrine to get equal serum content.  In addition the body eliminates the phenylephrine in about three hours compared to four hours for the pseudoephedrine.  Also I have found personally as have my friends that phenylephrine  simply doesn’t work as well even when you do take a lot of it.  The California solution seems best.  Here in Oregon we drive to adjoining states to buy pseudoephedrine as getting a prescription is an expensive hassle.

  • Tlyda

    Drug companies want law enforcement to more to fight meth. Hmmm.

  • EK

    As I listened to this speaker from TN yesterday, it struck me that he is trying to offshore meth production. Move all that nasty explosive, toxic material to Mexico, right? push the risk/burden/reward of production to gangs in Mexico! Not that it’s any sort of desirable small business, but it seems as though there could be parallels made with poppy-raising in Afghanistan (with one obvious exception being that poppies beautify ones environment rather than making it toxic and explosive). In offshoring it, the burden of enforcement is simply pushed from local law enforcement to federal DEA/border patrol folks, too, isn’t it? But I would bet that the speaker from TN is against raising taxes and against “big government” and etc. as well.  So, it’s “not in my backyard” but southern TX/AZ/NM/CA isn’t in my backyard, so it’s not my financial problem, it’s the problem of the feds, right?  Also, trying to control meth production by restricting access to pseudoephedrine seems to not address the real problem. Meth will just be replaced by a different toxic chemical substance for people with addiction disorders – glue sniffing, or whatever. Better to address the need for escapism or the addiction-propensity directly, but that would require expanding healthcare accessibility and affordability and substance abuse treatment to people who lack it, and who, as addicts, many members of our society might write off as not meriting the investment of federal or state tax dollars. But the lack of investment in healthcare is coming back and biting them on the local law enforcement side of the equation, isn’t it? 
    Pseudoephedrine is fantastic when I have a cold, it gives me a productive day at work – the alternative is being forced to blow my nose all day and a foggy brain. So that’s my bias: other products make me foggy/tired or don’t stop the nasal faucet. If its only available by prescription, access to it is restricted to people with health insurance or who can afford to pay to see a doctor to obtain a prescription. That seems discriminatory considering the extreme difference in ones ability to function as a human when one has a clear head vs a foggy, congested one. I’m as skeptical as anyone about “big pharma” but in this case I have to agree with their self-interested lobbying argument.

  • ruzzel01

    I hope they could develop it more in a good way and maybe produce it massively. momdoc.com

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