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Editorial: Pharmacy industry takes important step against meth

Aug. 31, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

The meth epidemic has been a hot potato for the pharmaceutical industry.

Manufacturers and retail outlets certainly do not advocate the illegal production of such a dangerous and addictive drug as methamphetamine. But on the other hand, they sell the popular remedies for colds and congestion that contain the key meth-making ingredient, pseudoephedrine.

The question for the industry and government has been how to restrict access to pseudoephedrine without stifling a multi-billion dollar revenue stream.

One of the answers is to come up with different products.

Illinois-based Acura Pharmaceuticals has done that with Nexafed, which pharmacists say is comparable to other pseudoephedrine products in price and effectiveness but harder to convert into meth. Basically, meth makers have to extract the pseudoephedrine from cold tablets, and during that process, Nexafed breaks down into a sticky gel that is difficult to use.

That is a big step in the right direction, but it only helps if the new drug is available at stores. Since Nexafed came on the market in December, it has been added at 1,400 stores nationwide, a company official said. Most locations are independent pharmacies in areas where meth abuse is rampant.

This week, Fruth Pharmacies announced that it was joining that effort for our region.

Fruth, which has 27 stores in West Virginia and Ohio, plans to remove other pseudoephedrine products at the 30-milligram dosage level and stock only Nexafed. Pseudoephedrine products at other dosage levels will still be available, but as other Nexafed dosage levels become available, those will be added as well.

It is encouraging to see these community-based pharmacies taking the lead in addressing the meth problem, and we hope their customers will support them and give the new products consideration.

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