Missouri has held onto its infamous title as Meth Capital of the United States for years now, in part, some say, because it's just too easy for cooks to access over-the-counter medicines for meth making. That's why Maryland Heights-based Westport Pharmaceuticals got a lot of attention last year for its nasal decongestant called Zephrex-D.
The sinus med, the company says in its marketing materials, is a "powerful decongestant relief" -- that also is "formulated to block all commonly known methods of meth making." A win-win!
There's just one problem: The Drug Enforcement Administration, based on new research its conducted, says Zephrex-D can successfully be used in meth labs.
"While I applaud your efforts to develop a product that deters the production of methamphetamine, I cannot agree with your company's representation that the pseudoephedrine in Zephrex-D cannot be extracted and used in illicit manufacture of methamphetamine," James Shroba, acting special agent in charge at the DEA's St. Louis office, writes in a letter to Westport Pharmaceuticals. "Accordingly, to clarify the facts with regards to this issue, I intend to make known DEA's scientific findings...to the law-enforcement community in Missouri."
The DEA sent Daily RFT a copy of the May 6 letter, on view below, and declined to offer any additional comment at this time.
This latest dispute delves into the debate around access to cold medicines in the state -- and how government regulations might help curb Missouri's major meth problem.
The letter from the DEA notes that the company has sought exemptions from a number of federal requirements so that Zephrex-D can essentially be sold over-the-counter with unrestricted access. (And last year, a group of Missouri lawmakers even urged the DEA to allow this drug -- specifically because it can't be used for meth making -- to be sold over the counter without restrictions.)
In his letter, Shroba says that he's received inquiries from Missouri law-enforcement executives who want to verify the accuracy of the company's statements -- that its product cannot be used for meth.
DEA chemists, "using simple chemicals and a commercially available solvent," were able to convert the medicine's "pellets" to "methamphetamine hydrochloride" using "common methods known to be used by clandestine laboratory operators," the letter states.
Continue for more from Westport Pharmaceuticals and the full DEA letter.