Manchester aldermen could vote Monday on whether or not to require a prescription to purchase pseudoephedrine products in the city.
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, including 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, but if the city passes the proposed ordinance, a prescription will then be required to purchase the products. It's a step 70 cities, including Ellisville, Eureka and Wildwood, have already taken throughout Missouri in effort to fight meth labs.
Manchester aldermen delayed a vote on the ordinance last Monday, saying they wanted to hear both sides of the argument before making a decision on the matter.
Sergeant Jason Grellner, president of the Missouri Narcotics Association, has spent years busting meth labs around the St. Louis area. He wants Manchester to pass a prescription-only ordinance.
He told aldermen that shoppers are now being approached in pharmacy parking lots around St. Louis area and they're being asked to buy pseudoephedrin by people involved with meth. Grellner said the prescription-only law helps keep criminals out of cities with such ordinances and he said 90 percent of pseudoephedrin sold is being used for meth labs.
However, Aldermen also heard from those opposed to requiring a prescription.
Jim Gwinner, a lobbyist who spoke on behalf of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), a spokesperson for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation and others all spoke out against requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine. They said makes it inconvenient and costly for law-abiding citizens and low income patients to get medications they need.
(Read Previous Story: Drug Agent, Lobbyist Address Meth in Manchester)
Manchester Alderman John Diehl wants the issue handled on a county-wide level, like St. Charles, Jefferson and other nearby counties have done. St. Louis County has not passed a prescription-only ordinance. Diehl said Manchester has one Walgreens within its city limits, but is surrounded by other Walgreens in portions of unincorporated St. Louis County which border Manchester and Town and Country.
He said he is opposed to pseudoephederin being used to make meth, but he thinks the prescription requirement needs to be addressed on larger scale.
"Where's this doing the good?" Diehl asked. "We're kind of pushing out businesses. People who would normally shop there anyway, we're sending them out of our town. I just think this should be done more regionally."
Until recently, St. Louis County police had not publicly supported the prescription requirement, nor had St. Louis County leaders or the St. Louis County Department of Public Health.
"I have not heard or seen (St. Louis County) Executive (Charlie) Dooley come out in support of this. There is no bill filed in the county," Gwinner told aldermen.
However, a recent article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, reported that St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch and Dr. Dolores J. Gunn, who heads up the St. Louis County Department of Health, are now both in support of the prescription requirement.
"Dr. Gunn is now in favor, Chief Fitch is in favor," Grellner said.
Grellner has worked closely with both said it's the upcoming November release of a new decongestant, Zephrex-D, that brought Gunn on board. As previously reported by Patch, Pseudoephedrine cannot be extracted from the drug and converted into meth, according to the drug-maker, so it will likely not require a prescription.
"I hope it comes to market. I hope it works," Gwinner said. "We're taking a wait and see approach."
Despite the county's now reported public support, some aldermen still feel the city needs to do its part to prevent the purchase of pseudoephedrine by meth makers.
"I think as a community we probably need to do our due diligence and look at he forces who are at play here as well," Alderman Michael Clement said.
Clement also suggested the city include an exemption it its ordinance, similar to the one in St. Charles County's ordinance, that allows pseudoephederin products that cannot be converted into meth to be sold without a prescription. This would allow Zephrex-D to then not require a prescription by customers.
"We're number one in the United States. That's inappropriate and we can't just turn our backs and act like it doesn't exist," Alderman Barbara Stevens said about passing the city-wide ordinance.
However, one Manchester resident said requiring a prescription will only make it harder for her and others to get medications they need. She's also concerned it will give insurance companies the control to determine if she gets generic or brand name drugs.
"Do not make it more complicated for me to live my life. I am the law-abiding citizen here," Patti Carroll, a ten-year resident of Manchester told aldermen. "I think this is essentially a feel good resolution.. but it's not going to do any thing to stop these meth labs."
She said criminals will just find neighboring cities to purchase the pseudoephedrine they need to make meth if Manchester passes an ordinance.
"Crooks don't give a hoot about the laws. They just don't care," Carroll said. She said she doensn't feel a city ordinance is the answer and called on residents to contaict their start legislators to address the issue on a larger scale. "Call your state Rep. Call Sue Allen, Call Andrew Koenig. I did,"
Terry Korpal, who lives in nearby unincorporated St. Louis County told aldermen that after his 25 years in law enforcement and another 20 years in crime analysis, he felt aldermen needed to gather much more information before passing such and ordinance. He recommended they talk to doctors and get their opinion on the idea. He also voiced concerns about the cost to patients to get a prescription.
"I'm not saying I'm against this. I'm just saying you need a lot more facts," Korpal said. "You have to make a decision based on facts."
Aldermen could vote on the prescription ordinance at the next board of aldermen meeting on October 15.
See agenda and supporting documents in the PDF portion of this article for complete details on the proposed ordinance.
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