Law Enforcement Clashes with Drug Companies over Regulating Meth Ingredient

Friday, November 15, 2013
Dismantling a meth lab in Arizona

Methamphetamine production has become so rampant in fueling crime that many law enforcement organizations are calling for states to remove the drug’s key, over-the-counter ingredient from pharmacy shelves. But the pharmaceutical industry, which makes that ingredient—pseudoephedrine—is fighting new laws that would make this drug prescription-only.


The battle between cops and Big Pharma is being waged across the U.S., stretching from the West Coast to Appalachia.


Police groups have already won out in Oregon and Mississippi, where state lawmakers adopted legislation requiring people to see a doctor before getting permission to buy pseudoephedrine.


Supporters say the new laws crippled the meth industries in these two states. But drug manufacturers don’t want other states, like Missouri and West Virginia, to copy these measures because more restrictions on pseudoephedrine could cut into the drug’s sales.


Jason Grellner, vice president of the National Narcotics Officers Association Coalition, told the Corporate Crime Reporter that it’s essential to make pseudoephedrine available only through prescription, due to the fact that 80% of the drug’s over-the-counter sales are being used to make meth.


“When you see people who are willing to stand in a Walgreens parking lot and shoulder tap individuals and ask them to buy a box of pseudoephedrine while they are in the store and give them $20 to do it, then you know that it’s a large percentage,” Grellner said. “We see labs that have 20, 60, 70, 100 boxes in one lab.”


The legislative effort by Grellner’s organization is backed by numerous public safety groups in Missouri, he claims, where a similar bill is under consideration.


“They are all in favor of the legislation,” said Grellner. “And yet each year, it is beaten back by heavy lobbying….We in the public sector don’t have the money to counter [that]. We don’t have the money to hire highly paid lobbyists, and to give money to almost every lobbyist in the capital.”


In Missouri—which leads the nation in meth lab incidents— and in other states, the campaign faces opposition from drug companies through a group known as the Consumer Health Care Products Association.


“In 2012, the industry sold over 75 million boxes of pseudoephedrine in the United States,” said Grellner. “That’s $1 billion a year in sales. Drug abuse comes down to…two things. Somebody has the brain disease of addiction. And somebody is getting paid.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Narcs Versus Big Pharma (Corporate Crime Reporter)

CVS Fined $77 Million for Selling Meth Ingredients to Criminals (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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