Manchester aldermen delayed a vote Monday night on whether or not to require a prescription in the city to purchase pseudoephedrine products.
Pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient used to make methamphetamine, is often taken by cold and allergy sufferers and found in many popular over the counter drugs like Sudafed, Claritin-D, Allegra-D and Zyrtec-D.
Currently, those drugs are behind the pharmacist's counter and an ID is required to buy them. There is a computer system that tracks pseudoephedrin sales. It's called NPLEx and leaves it up to the pharmacist to tell a customer that they cannot purchase the pseudoephedrine.
St. Louis area drug agents say that computer system, NPLEx, does not stop meth labs. They want to make purchasing requirements for pseudoephedrin even stricter by requiring a prescription, but it's an issue that brings arguments from both sides.
Alderman said they wanted to hear all the information Monday night and consider it before voting on the issue.
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, wants Manchester to pass an ordinance requiring a prescription. Grellner is also working to get a Missouri state law to require a prescription to purchase pseudoephedrine.
He told aldermen nearby cities and counties have passed prescription-only laws and said the stipulation helps stop meth makers and keeps criminals out of cities with such ordinances.
Grellner said 90 percent of pseudoephedrin sold is being used for meth labs and when these criminals come to town they are committing other crimes, including burglaries and shoplifting.
"Are these really the type of people Manchester wants to invite into their city limits?" Grellner asked aldermen. "This is called the 'Highway 100 Alley.'"
He also said a recent study shows shoplifting dropped 80 percent in stores where prescriptions are now required for pseudoephedrine.
Grellner said that since the state won't a prescription-only law, it's up the cities and counties to take the measures and to show state lawmakers that they support requiring a prescription. He has spoken to many of the city and county lawmakers. Although St. Louis County has not passed such an ordinance, Ellisville, Eureka and Wildwood now require prescriptions.
"I come to you people so you can protect your citizens and 70 out of 71 times, that's what's happened," Grellner said. He's referring to the city of Fenton which recently did not pass a prescription-only ordinance, even though Grellner said it is a high spot for meth makers to buy pseudoephedrine. Seventy other such ordinances have been passed.
Grellner's argument was met with opposition Monday night, from those who say a prescription requirement is inconvenient and costly for law-abiding citizens and low income patients.
Jim Gwinner spoke on behalf of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) which represents the manufacturers of over-the-counter medications. Gwinner works for K-Global, which is a state lobbyist group representing pharmaceutical companies. CHPA is a client of K-Global. Gwinner has spoken out against requiring a prescription to buy pseudoephedrine products in the past. He spoke out against the requirement again Monday night and said it is a complex issue.
"Everyone in this room tonight recognizes is that meth is a problem," Gwinner said. "One of the things we are all trying to do is minimize criminal behavior."
However, he said requiring a prescription makes it too difficult for consumers to get widely used medications. He also said it forces them to designate time to go get a prescription from their doctors and it will cause them to pay unnecessary co-pays.
"We did conduct a survey of (Manchester) residents and we found that more than 66 percent want the state to look at this issue," Gwinner told aldermen. He said 3,200 residents were contacted in a phone survey and 660 responded. He said 18 percent wanted the the issue handled at municipal level.
Alderman Barbara Stevens said she actually received one of the calls and heard a few of the questions prior to telling them she was an alderman.
"I'm a little less confident that it was non-biased," Stevens told Gwinner.
Gwinner also provided aldermen with what he said was testimony from pharmacists, health care groups, including the Asthma and Allergy Association, and others against requiring prescriptions.
Reagan Nelson, with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America - St. Louis Chapter, also addressed aldermen Monday night. She said the foundation opposes requiring a prescription.
St. Louis is consistently in the top 30 cities as worst for allergies, Nelson told aldermen.
"We're selling a lot of pseudoephederin because allergies are a problem," Nelson said.
She also said she feels there is a reason there is not a prescription-only state law.
"Perhaps it's not the best solution," Nelson said.
Another concern she shared is that health clinics that serve lower income patients will be "completely overburdened" by putting in place a prescription-only requirement.
"It's going to burden them in ways that we have no idea," Nelson told aldermen.
However, Grellner told aldermen that many of the groups opposing the prescription law receive some type of funding from the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture pseudoephedrine.
"All of them get money from the industry, including the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America... from the companies that make the product," Grellner said.
He said the new drug, Zephrex-D, coming out in November will make the convenience factor a non-issue. As previously reported by Patch, the drug is touted as being as effective as current pseudoephederin drugs, but it cannot be converted into meth. The goal is to have it for sale without requiring a prescription.
Three national companies and two local companies are set to carry Zephrex-D in November. Grellner said it will cost less than brand name allergy medications.
"What's the argument at this point? Why are we having this discussion? Because of the money," Grellner said.
Grellner said the cost of pseudoephedrine with a prescription will not increase the cost of the drug for consumers.
However, Arnold City Councilwoman Doris Borgelt also addressed aldermen in opposition of the prescription requirement. She said the City of Arnold passed such an ordinance and she's received numerous complaints from her constituents about the law. She also said her city has seen meth labs and shoplifting increase since the ordinance was passed.
Manchester aldermen could vote on the issue at the next board of aldermen meeting on October 15.
Check back to Town and Country - Manchester Patch for more on Monday night's meeting, including what Manchester aldermen and residents had to say.
See agenda and supporting documents in the PDF portion of this article for complete details.
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