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News Nearby: Fighting Meth: Allergy Drugs Could Require Prescriptions in Manchester

A prescription may soon be required in Manchester to purchase popular allergy drugs, including pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, which are used to make methamphetamine.

Originally on Town & Country-Manchester Patch:

Manchester shoppers may soon need a prescription from their doctors to purchase popular allergy medications such as Clariton-D and Allegra-D. Currently, those drugs are behind the pharmacist's counter and an ID is required to buy them, however St. Louis area drug agents want to make purchasing requirements event stricter.

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"Frankly I think it's a good idea," said Manchester Police Chief Tim Walsh.

Monday night, the Manchester Board of Aldermen heard a presentation about the benefits of requiring a prescription for the purchase of pseudoephedrine, ephedrine and other drugs used to manufacture methamphetamine. They also learned of a new decongestant that cannot be converted to meth that's coming to St. Louis in November.

A vote on the prescription proposal could come at the next board of aldermen meeting.

Monday night, Mike McCartney with the St. Louis County Drug Unit explained to aldermen why Manchester should pass the city ordinance similar to the ones passed by 70 other Missouri cities, including Eureka, Ellisville and Wildwood.

"Pseudoephedrine is the one thing that if you do not have it, you will not make methamphetamine," McCartney said. "It is very easy to obtain here in St. Louis County, all you need is a drivers license." 

Sergeant Jason Grellner, president of the Missouri Narcotics Association and the Unit Commander of the Franklin County Narcotics Unit which works in conjunction with the St. Louis County Drug Task Force, tells Patch he'd like to see Manchester pass the ordinance, but what he really wants is a Missouri state law that requires a prescription to purchase the drug pseudoephedrine.

As previously reported by Patch, Grellner is pushing for that change as he works to revise proposed House Bill 1952 and push it through the Missouri Legislature. The bill would not only make it a statewide law to require people to have a prescription, but it would also allow an exemption for some newly developed allergy products that can't be made into meth.

For now though, Grellner would like to see St. Louis County and St. Louis City pass similar pseudoephedrine prescription requirements, like the surrounding counties of St. Charles, Lincoln, Franklin and Jefferson. He said their ordinances now force meth makers to come to St. Louis County.

"Our meth labs are because of St. Louis City and St. Louis County," Grellner tells Patch.

Aldermen did ask McCartney Monday night why St. Louis County hasn't passed such an ordinance and is leaving it up to the individual cities.

McCartney explained that the St. Louis County Police Department is in support of requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine, but the St. Louis County Department of Health is not on board at this time. Authorities are trying to meet with the head of the health department to push for a county-wide prescription requirement.

With the issue at a standstill in St. Louis County, Grellner says cities need to take steps to stop meth and he wants city leaders and residents to realize just how close the problem truly is.

"Do they want the criminals from those four counties visiting their cities? And when they come, they commit other crimes," Grellner points out. "These are not the people that I would think the people of St. Louis County want visiting their stores."

Grellner said when they come to buy pseudoephedrine, the criminals are also shoplifting, breaking into cars and homes and sometimes driving around with dangerous meth labs in their vehicles.

"Manchester and Manchester Road are both well known for "smurfers,"' Grellner tells Patch. He explained that "smurfers are the people who go out and purchase the pseudoephedrine. The "smurfers" then give the boxes of medicine to their "pill broker" who pays the "smurfer" for the box of pseudoephedrine. Then the "pill broker" sells the box to the meth cooks.

Grellner tells Patch these individuals are now even approaching shoppers at some St. Louis area pharmacies, asking them to go into the pharmacy and purchase the pseudoephedrine for them. They pay a person $20 to buy a box of pseudoephedrine and then turn around and sell the box for $65 to $100 per box.

To knock down meth labs, Grellner said the pseudoephedrine must become unavailable to meth makers. He said requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine is a significant step that is making a difference that drug agents can already prove.

This plan to fight meth works best in areas where there are the largest concentration of such ordinances. Grellner said they are seeing an enormous impact near Cape Girardeau, MO where the entire area requires prescriptions.

"Last year that was the only area in the state to go down in meth labs and they went down 62 percent. The state of Missouri went up almost seven percent," Grellner tells Patch.

Alderman Barbara Stevens expressed concerns that the cost of the allergy medications would increase for the law abiding citizens who truly use the drugs if it requires a prescription. McCartney said the price would not increase from its over-the-counter cost.

In addition to the prescription requirement, another solution is a new drug, Zethrex-D. It cannot be converted into meth, according to the drug maker and Grellner, and it is expected to be in St. Louis area pharmacies in November. A  prescription will not be required for the allergy medication since it cannot be used to make methamphetamine.

Check back to Town and Country - Manchester Patch later this week for more on the fight against meth and the new decongestant that may help solve the problem.

READ RELATED STORIES:

Part 1: Is Meth Moving Into Your Neighborhood?

Part 2: Is Meth Moving Into Your Neighborhood?, route: {:controller=>"articles", :action=>"show", :id=>"part-2-is-meth-moving-into-your-neighborhood"} -->

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