A new decongestant set to hit the St. Louis-area pharmacies in November is gaining support from drug agents in the fight against methamphetamine.
(Read Previous Story: Zephrex-D: Meth-Busting Decongestant in St. Louis Pharmacies This Year)
As previously reportedly by Patch, authorities say meth makers purchase popular allergy medications and extract the pseudoephedrine from them.
"You can take a pseudoephedrine pill and the first thing you do is try and extract as much pure pseudoephedrine as possible and step two, you convert that pure pseudoephedrine into methamphetamine," Paul Hemings, with Highland Pharmaceuticals, tells Patch.
In November, Highland Pharmaceuticials is unveiling a new decongestant, Zephrex-D, that Hemings said prevents that process.
"Part of what I will call the 'secret sauce,'" which obviously I can't get into, is the drug itself essentially locks down the pseudoephedrine so that it cannot be extracted, which is the first step in the meth-making process," Hemings explained.
Heming said there are impurities that are attached to the pseudoephedrine in Zephrex-D so that it will not allow meth cooks to pull the pseudoephedrine from the drug and therefore it can't be converted into methamphetamine.
He said his company has worked with area drug task force agents in testing Zephrex-D and it is even resistant to the popular, and highly volatile, shake and bake method, where a plastic bottle is used to essentially mix the ingredients and extract the pseudoephedrine.
"We've done countless testing on this product, both in independent labs and with lawn enforcement, and it has demonstrated to be meth-resistant in all situations," Hemings explained. "What I can tell you about the shake and bake method, you can either make meth or you cannot make meth. No meth was made in the shake and bake process."
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 has been involved with the testing of Zephrex-D and is encouraged by the release of this new drug. He said the new drug will also allow asthma and allergy suffers to get the drug they need, hopefully without an prescription.
"The new product Zephrex-D will be on multiple store shelves at the latest on November first and this is the product specifically formulated so it cannot be used to make meth," Grellner previously told Patch. "So it's a win, win."
According to Hemings, the new drug is safe, it undergoes FDA regulated manufacturing and it's FDA registered. He tells Patch, studies confirm the bio-availability of the product, so the amount of pseudoephedrine that gets into a users blood stream is equal to the amount of other pseudoephedrine products.
"That's the challenge, and without getting too technical, drugs have to meet certain standards. We've already met those standards. We are FDA approved," Hemings said. "Our product is going to be subject to the same rules of any other pseudoephedrine product, except for where they have built exemptions into the language."
Hemings said this is the closest thing to a solution so far when it comes to fighting meth while not taking away consumers' rights. The goal is that since Zephrex-D cannot be converted to meth, it will not require a prescription. This is an exemption that has been written into St. Charles County's ordinance and is also being included in a state law being drafted by Grellner.
However, as it stands right now, the new drug will follow the ordinance of each city or county where it is sold.
Hemmings said Zephrex-D will be comparable to Sudafed. He explained that Claritin-D and Allegra-D are what are called "combination products." That means pseudoephedrine is the active ingredient, but it's combined with an antihistamine.
"Our product will compete directly Sudafed. It's a pseudoephedrine only product," Hemings explaind. "We do have in our pipeline to move into these combination products quickly, but as of today the product we will introduce will be a pseudoephedrine only product."