Drug companies battle meth scourge

As the highly addictive drug spreads across urban communities, pharmaceutical companies are looking for ways to combat production.

By Bruce Kennedy Dec 28, 2012 9:31AM

Image: Burglar looking through cupboard (Image Source/Alamy)Meth is a horrifying drug. It's very addictive and destructive, not only to people but to local economies.  


Just 20 years ago, methamphetamine was considered a mostly rural problem. Its smelly, highly toxic and dangerous cooking process was best suited to remote locations.


But meth abuse has spread rapidly across the country. According to last year’s Department of Justice National Drug Treat Assessment, methamphetamine was considered the greatest drug threat by state and local agencies in the Western and Pacific states, and second only to cocaine in the Southeastern U.S. And a national survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration reports that meth addicts commit anywhere from 50% to 70% of all property crimes.


The financial fallout from methamphetamine is also startling. A RAND Corporation study found meth abuse had an overall economic cost of $23.4 billion in the U.S. in 2005 -- including losses from methamphetamine-related crime, premature deaths, drug treatment and family services, lost job productivity, property destruction and hazardous waste removal.


A new Associated Press investigation, meanwhile, finds meth lab seizures by law enforcement have skyrocketed over the past several years in major American cities like Nashville, Kansas City and Evansville, Ind.


Mexican drug cartels still produce and traffic the lion’s share of methamphetamine found in the U.S. But the drug is becoming easier to produce.


Methamphetamine's key ingredient is pseudoephedrine, a common decongestant found in cold and allergy medicines. The federal Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 (CMEA) regulated and limited retail sales of pseudoephedrine and other related drugs. But the meth producers have found ways around these obstacles.


"As laws limited the availability of pseudoephedrine, meth-makers adjusted with a faster process that creates smaller batches simply by combining ingredients -- mixing cold pills with toxic substances such as battery acid or drain cleaner -- in 2-liter soda bottles," reports AP.


This so-called "shake-and-bake" method of meth is not only fast but very portable, making it perfect for distribution in urban environments.


But there might be a game-changer coming into play when it comes to methamphetamine production. Several drug companies are working on new pseudoephedrine formulas that reportedly disrupt the drug’s conversion into methamphetamine.


Earlier this month St. Louis' Westport Pharmaceuticals launched the sale of its Zephrex-D, a tamper-resistant pseudoephedrine-based decongestant, in retail stores across Missouri.


Because it contains pseudoephedrine, Zephrex-D must be sold behind pharmacy counters or by prescription. But the company has applied to a federal government for an exemption.


"This exemption would enable retailers to place Zephrex-D back in their OTC (over the counter) sections, return direct consumer access to pseudoephedrine, save time and administrative costs for pharmacists, all while helping to reduce methamphetamine-related crime," Westport vice president and general manager Paul Hemings told Drug Store News. "Consumers win, retailers win and 'meth cooks' lose."


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54Comments
Dec 28, 2012 12:52PM
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I think they need to go the other way, add a chemical that when smoked as meth kills the methhead instantly.

Dec 28, 2012 1:22PM
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I hope they show those before and after Meth photos to kids in high school. Blech
Dec 28, 2012 2:45PM
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As much as we want, wish or desire we will fail miserably when we delude ourselves into believing we can control other peoples behavior. Most of us have difficulty controlling our own.
Dec 28, 2012 2:51PM
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Meth is bad for you.  No one is disputing that.  However, the pharmaceutical companies' main goal is not the betterment of society or the relief of suffering, it is making money.  They want to create a prescription drug to treat meth addiction.  While illicit drugs (with the possible exception of marijuana) are a huge problem, the bigger problem by far is the proliferation of PRESCRIPTION drugs, many of which are unnecessary, over-prescribed, or abused.  This country's LEGAL drug problem is far, FAR worse than its ILLEGAL drug problem.
Dec 28, 2012 12:12PM
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this is useless since china and india both continue to produce and export pseudoephedrine in large, industrial quantities at a low cost.
Dec 28, 2012 1:39PM
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How's the government's drug war going? Legalize all drugs now and take the crime and profit out of it. Then there are legal special interests, DEA, police, etc, who also profit by the illegal status of drugs. 
Dec 28, 2012 12:34PM
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Meth is WAY too easy to make, to be able control. If they bust a meth lab, another will pop up right down the street. This is the problem will meth .... it's not like heroin or coke that has to be processed. It is a simpe matter of putting together some easily accesible drugs and BAM .... you have meth!!! It's a killer ... so it will weed out the users jusy be attrition!
Dec 28, 2012 2:46PM
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This article makes me mad!!!  I'm not a meth maker nor a meth user, but I detest this one-sided, information restricting bunch of garbage!!! Drug companies (legal drug lords) are battling meth!! Wow! What a revelation!!!  I read the first sentence only!  It says "Meth is a horrifying drug. It's very addictive and destructive, not only to people but to local economies."  No mention is made of the "horrifying drug"s put out by legal drug lords!!! They don't mention the "addictive and destructive" side effects of their so-called medicines "not only to people but to local economies!" Was it Merck who just admitted their junk medicine is no good and still refuse to give the side effects!!! How many reading this have loved ones who have been destroyed by legal drug lorda and legal drug dealers. 
Dec 28, 2012 2:01PM
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 Again, it is time to legalize drugs. In my op. meth is the most toxic, unstable, poisonous, addictive, cheap and degrading substance.  Education, (and earlier,the better) is still #1 way to combat these addictions.  Though for some reason we do not teach our young people the truth about drugs. Legalizing will do two things; 1. Remove all profit from said drug(s). 2. Identify those in our society that demonstrate a continued willingness to abuse,(drugs or otherwise), and make available intervention, re-hab, etc. Yes, maybe you would see a giant spike in drug use at first, but I believe it would rapidly decline. And eventually to a very, very small number.
Dec 28, 2012 1:31PM
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"Consumers win, retailers win and 'meth cooks' lose."

 

- and drug cartels win more of the market

Dec 28, 2012 1:04PM
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Instead, battle the scourge of OVERPRICED DRUGS/CAPITALIST DRUGS/FOR-PROFIT DRUGS.

Big Pharma MONOPOLIES are some of the worst scourges to plague America and our health.

Dec 28, 2012 1:15PM
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Everyone wants to be the new Walter White!!
Dec 28, 2012 2:58PM
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The poison is coming from superlabs in Mexico. Ya' cannot easily stop them, just as Escobar could not easily be stopped.
Dec 28, 2012 1:17PM
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The only way to get control of this is to legalize it and all drugs.  This will stop the black market and bring in a lot of tax money.   If people choose to kill themselves with it, then that's their business.  You can never have control till you take control!
Dec 28, 2012 1:14PM
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Want to fight meth? Then make all the other crap you've hooked everyone else on cheaper, duh!
Dec 28, 2012 1:54PM
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the only hope for the war against meth, is the young people coming of age right now. millions of these kids grew up with junkie parents. if you ask most of them, i think you would find people who do not want to end up like their parents. education in schools should remain a priority. and don't forget the prescription drug epidemic. a good portion of these pain doctors are nothing but drug dealers with a degree. the ridiculous notion by the medical industry that throwing pills at a problem will lead people to better health has to change. but don't expect big pharma to go along with that.instead of locking up users the, the fiscally common sense solution remains in treatment. not paying to house, feed, clothe,  and medicate convicts. another more extreme option would be the death penalty for meth, heroin,and cocaine  producers, smugglers and dealers.  sounds horrible. and as much as the choice to do meth lies with the user. the producer, and dealers remain just as culpable in the destroyed marriages, family's, and the lives of the children forever effected by the choices of the people involved in this industry. this country basically wrote off an entire generation at the start of the crack epidemic. that in turn created the drug zombie apocalypse this country is facing now. and it's just a matter of time before we discover the next addictive substance that will make all the drugs now equivalent to scarfing down a box of Twinkies.
Dec 28, 2012 3:35PM
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I live in Evansville, IN and this place is a mess! Every person you run into fits into the description of a meth head. It's disgusting living in this town. I'm currently in the process of moving just because I fear someone is making meth in my back yard.
This is an issue that needs to be taken care of immediately, and seeing it first hand, drastic measures need to be taken by getting rid of the cause. Too bad "certain areas" are worried about making money, than getting rid of a nuisance by depleting the source.

Dec 28, 2012 2:56PM
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Something to think about:  If I go into a legal drug dealers business (drug store) and buy certain chemincals that could be used to make meth, I will be reported to the local police and they will watch me.  They will likely pay me a visit to see if I am making meth, and if so, I will be escorted to jail, fined and probably imprisioned.  BUT, I can go into the same legal drug dealers business and have another prescription of a legal drug dealer (doctor) filled every week for almost a year and NOT ONE WORD will be mentioned to me or to the police about the destructive side effects caused by their legal drug.  America is out for MONEY!  The legal drug lords want it all.  They don't want the meth makers to have their two dollars.  Govenment doesn't care about you or your life! They care about tax money!

Dec 28, 2012 2:28PM
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Am I missing something? Are there really that many people out there, that are so pathetically board, lonely, desperate or most likely, weak minded, that they resort to trying this brain killing drug, or any drug for that matter? Here's a concept...do something constructive rather than destructive! I'm tired of paying for your selfish, bad choices by way of higher medical cost's and increased crime rates. Do us all a favor, if you want to kill your brain, put a bullet in it....done!
Dec 28, 2012 6:36PM
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BUILD A BIG WALL ACROSS THE BOARDER AND THEY JUST GET BIGGER LADDERS. TINKER WITH THE PSEUDO EPHEDRINE AND THEY WILL MAKE IT OUT OF TYLENOL. TRUST ME ITS NOT THAT DIFFICULT OF A PROCESS...WHAT WE NEED IT RESPONSIBLE HEALTH ORIENTED APPROACH TO DRUG USE/ADDICTION INSTEAD OF THE INSANE CRIMINALIZATION OF BASIC HUMAN STUPIDITY. THIS ADDITIONALLY DEPRIVES THE DRUG CARTELS OF THE MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF MONEY INVOLVED AND THE POLITICAL DESTABILIZATION OF GOVEERNMENTS IN PRODUCER NATIONS
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