Governor Nixon wants to make pseudoephedrine — the active ingredient in methamphetamine — prescription only. He’s meeting opposition already from consumer groups. Nixon says the steps already taken to crack down on meth production aren’t enough.

The legislature already enacted a law that puts pseudoephedrine-based medications — such as Sudafed, Claritin-D and Advil Cold & Sinus — behind the counter. He says groups opposing the measure to make them all available by prescription only opposed that law, too.

Nixon says it’s worked for Oregon and Mississippi, and that he’ll continue to work with other states to keep pseudoephedrine out of the hands of meth cooks. Nixon says winning the fight against meth means staying one step ahead of the criminals, and a prescription law is that next step.

The Governor made the announcement at the Cape Girardeau Police Department, where he was joined by Attorney General Chris Koster; Col. Ron Replogle, Superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol; Cape Girardeau Assistant Police Chief Roger Fields; and other area law enforcement leaders and narcotics officers.

“The destructive effects of meth are well-documented – the ruined lives of addicts, the harm to children in homes where it is produced, the danger to neighbors and public safety personnel, and the burden on law enforcement and the mental health and corrections systems,” Nixon said. “This deadly drug cannot be allowed to fester in Missouri. We have already enacted several measures to fight meth, but it’s time to take this significant next step.”

Nixon says the number of meth incidents in those states dropped dramatically after prescription-only laws were enacted there, the Governor said. Oregon reported 424 meth incidents in 2004, two years before making pseudoephedrine a prescription-only drug. So far in 2010, the number of meth incidents reported in Oregon was five. Mississippi made pseudoephedrine available by prescription-only in July 2010, and has seen a 65 percent decrease in meth incidents since its law took effect.

“The law enforcement community is broadly united in the position that requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine is the strongest step against methamphetamine production our state can take,” Attorney General Koster said. “If we truly wish to attack this crisis, then the tool to do so is within our reach.”

“Missouri’s drug task forces and all law enforcement officers are waging an aggressive fight against meth,” said Col. Replogle. “They use tried and true investigative techniques and the best new technology available to hunt down meth cooks, meth labs and the ‘smurfers’ who attempt to get around existing restrictions on the sale of pseudoephedrine. Requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine will finally give law enforcement an edge in a battle in which too often the numbers have been stacked against law enforcement.”

The Governor said that Deputy Director of Public Safety Andrea Spillars is leading the efforts on behalf of his administration to fight meth.

By law, pseudoephedrine must now be sold behind a pharmacy counter and buyers are limited to purchasing no more than 3.6 grams, or 120 standard tablets in a 24 hour period, and 9 grams, or 300 standard tablets, in a 30-day period. On Sept. 28, a new state rule took effect, giving authority to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to work with law enforcement and pharmacies on a new database that automatically blocks over the limit sales of pseudoephedrine and allows law enforcement agencies to track pseudoephedrine purchases in real time.

Nixon said over half (590) of the retail pharmacies that sell pseudoephedrine over the counter in Missouri are connected to the database, with the expectation that all those pharmacies will be using the program by the beginning of 2011.

“The database is one of the tools we’ve put in place to help law enforcement investigate and track down meth labs, meth cooks, and the ‘smurfers’ who supply them,” Nixon said. “Winning the fight against meth means staying one step ahead of the criminals, however, and a prescription law is that next step.”

 Jessica Machetta reports [Mp3, 1:26 min.]