Meth Makers Can Use Zephrex-D, Sinus Med Marketed as Meth-Resistant, DEA Warns

by

Missouri meth lab materials. - FILE PHOTO

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.

See also: - How to Make Meth The Shake and Bake Way - Photos: Top Twelve Craziest Meth Busts In Missouri - Meth Explosion Sends Suspect Running Naked Through Streets

"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."

Marketing for Zephrex-D. - VIA ZEPHREX-D.COM

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.

It's unclear what kind of action the DEA will be taking next besides alerting law-enforcement officials. Westport Pharmaceuticals has not yet responded to Daily RFT's requests for comment today, but a spokeswoman told the Associated Press that officials were "surprised" by the letter and that only very small amounts could be extracted from Zephrex-D -- meaning that a single dose could cost as much as twenty times the street value.

On its website, the company markets Zephrex-D this way:

The introduction of Zephrex-D marks a significant step towards improving the security and delivery of pseudoephedrine. Delivering the drug in this formulation prevents the illicit meth-making process without further encumbering access for those consumers seeking therapeutic relief from sinus congestion and pressure. It is a win for patients, our communities and all those who are dedicated to protecting and making our neighborhoods a safe place to live.

We'll update if we hear back from the company.

In the meantime, here's the full letter from the DEA, followed by a Zephrex-D press release from last year outlining its alleged meth-resistance.

DEA Letter to Westport Pharmaceuticals

From Westport Pharmaceuticals:

St. Louis, MO - December 4, 2012 - Westport Pharmaceuticals, a St. Louis-based, specialty pharmaceutical company focused on OTC consumer healthcare products with abuse deterrent technology, announced today the arrival of Zephrex-D™, a tamper-resistant pseudoephedrine-based decongestant, now available in retail stores throughout the St. Louis region and the state of Missouri. The unique formulation of Zephrex-D provides powerful decongestant relief for consumers while protecting against the illicit manufacture of methamphetamine. Being safe and effective, and having the added benefit of tamper-resistance, Zephrex-D represents a tremendous breakthrough in the battle against methamphetamine production without needing to restrict access for legitimate consumers.

Methamphetamine has become a tremendous challenge for the entire nation with meth labs and abuse at epidemic proportions in Missouri and across all of America. The number of clandestine and mobile meth lab seizures in Missouri has increased by 50% in the last four years, and the cost to the state for law enforcement, prosecution, incarceration and site clean-up efforts is estimated to be over $5 million annually. As Paul Hemings, the Vice President and General Manager of Westport explains, "The arrival of Zephrex-D is an integral part of a comprehensive solution to help end meth labs and meth-related crime in our local communities, throughout Missouri and ultimately, across our country." Missouri is the ideal location to launch Zephrex-D and build awareness for a product that is formulated to block all commonly known methods of meth making, while maintaining full decongestant benefits and relief for patients.

Several national and regional retailers are now stocking Zephrex-D throughout St. Louis and Missouri. Because it is a pseudoephedrine-based product, it will be available behind the pharmacy counter and subject to all existing Federal, State and local purchase restrictions for now. Some local ordinances require prescriptions to purchase pseudoephedrine products, but Zephrex-D has been exempted from the prescription requirement in several instances. For a listing of participating retailers and their locations, please visit www.Zephrex-D.com . These pharmacies are being educated on the benefits of Zephrex-D and will be ready to address consumer inquiries. Together with retailer support, Westport plans to generate consumer acceptance for Zephrex-D and expand distribution nationally within the next year.

The introduction of Zephrex-D marks a significant step towards improving the security and delivery of pseudoephedrine. Delivering the drug in this formulation prevents the illicit meth-making process without further encumbering access for those consumers seeking therapeutic relief from sinus congestion and pressure. It is a win for patients, our communities and all those who are dedicated to protecting and making our neighborhoods a safe place to live.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.

comment