Once again a proposal has been offered in the House to require a prescription for the purchase of cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, because those products can be used to make methamphetamine. The bill’s sponsor says it has a “new twist,” however. 

Representative Dave Schatz presents HB 1952

Representative Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan) says a new provision in the bill would specify that drugs that are not feasible for use in making meth would not require a prescription. Schatz tells the House Committee on Crime Prevention and Public Safety a new product is about to reach the market that fits that description.

“There’s a technology that’s been developed that does not allow for the extraction of any more than … less than five percent of its volume to be turned into meth. Currently the pseudoephedrine that’s out there has a very, very much higher extraction rate and that’s what’s used to make methamphetamine.”

The maker of the new technology, called Tarex, is Highland Pharmaceuticals, based in St. Louis. President and CEO Jim Bausch, tells lawmakers, “We can defeat all the methods used for clandestine production of methamphetamine.” He says the new drug, to be marketed under the name Relēva, will be on the market in four to six weeks.

The bill, and the product, were supported in the hearing by several law enforcement organizations. Cape Girardeau County Sheriff John Jordan equated the new product to when Henry Ford’s Model “T” replaced the horse & buggy. “These folks should be applauded. This is the silver bullet for meth labs.”

Several groups spoke against the legislation, saying the effectiveness of this new product remains to be seen and the prescription requirement adds cost and inconvenience for Missourians who use currently available cold medicines. Missouri Pharmacy Association CEO Ron Fitzwater says it’s too early to base statute on this product. “I hope we’re sitting here next year, we’re talking about an extremely successful product that has come into our stores … that our members have seen market shares shift and they’ve started to move some of the other products off the counter, but today that’s not the situation we’re in. We’ve got a hypothetical product that looks very positive.”

The President of the Missouri Narcotics Association, Sergeant Jason Grellner, disputes Fitzwater’s statement that the product is not ready. “This has been tested by the DEA for many weeks. They can’t break it. I’ve talked to the laboratory people, I sent it to the DEA laboratory. I sat and tried to make meth out of it with a one pot bottle. You can’t do it with this product.”

Some lawmakers raised concerns about passing Schatz’s bill. Minority Whip Mike Colona (D-St. Louis) said, “So then what we really are going to do is legislate a preference for that drug company to sell its products in Missouri.”

Representative Brandon Ellington (D-Kansas City) says it would set a dangerous precedent. “Then we could pick and choose whatever industry we want and promote whatever company we want to promote, as opposed to promoting public safety. If we were promoting public safety, it seems like that would be something that would be patented or made law for all drug companies to have the same requirements, that their drugs could not be broke down to make methamphetamine.”

Bausch attempted to alleviate those concerns. “We will be glad to work with any other company that wants to adopt this technology for their pseudoephedrine products.”

The Committee has not had a vote on the bill.