Detective Sgt. Jason Grellner, head of Franklin County’s drug task force, said he’s very optimistic that St. Louis city and St. Louis County will join the growing number of communities that have adopted ordinances requiring prescriptions to buy cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine.

Pseudoephedrine is the only ingredient that is vital for manufacturing methamphetamine.

One of the key reasons that St. Louis city and county may consider approving prescription laws, similar to those in adjoining counties, is the advent of a new formulation of pseudoephedrine-based medicine that can’t be used to make meth, Grellner said.

That product, called Zephrex-D, is scheduled to go on sale in pharmacies Nov. 1, Grellner said.

But because it still contains pseudoephedrine  — even though it’s in a form that can’s be used for meth — it still will require a prescription in areas with those laws, until a county or city passes an exemption for Zephrex-D, Grellner explained.

“We’ll be working with Franklin County on amending the order to exempt Zephrex-D,” he told The Missourian. “Once that’s done, then the cities in the county can adopt their own exemption or repeal their ordinances under the county order.”

St. Charles County already has amended its ordinance to exempt formulas resistant to meth making.

Zephrex-D, in the beginning, still will have to sold through a pharmacy due to state and federal laws regulating sales of pseudoephedrine, but Grellner said an application has been made with the DEA for an exemption so that the new formula eventually could be sold off the shelves.

Earlier this week, Dr. Dolores Gunn, health director for St. Louis County, who previously opposed a prescription law, said she now supports one because of the availability of the new drug formula.

With support from Gunn and St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch, who previously came out in support of a countywide prescription requirement, legislation for such a requirement is expected to have overwhelming support on the county council, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported this week.

Hold Meeting

Grellner said officials from several counties that have presciption laws in place met with St. Louis city and county officials Sept. 20 at St. Charles.

“We discussed the reactions to precription laws in our counties and how the number of labs have continued to climb because meth cooks are getting their pseudoephedrine from pharmacies in St. Louis city and county,” Grellner said.

He said based on interviews with suspected meth cooks, investigators have determined that approximately 90 percent of the pseudoephedrine being used to make meth in outlying areas is coming directly from St. Louis city and county.

“Everything is starting to look great,” Grellner remarked. “When St. Louis city and county get on board, the number of meth labs in the region should drop drastically.

“We’re talking about a part of the state and nation that holds the record for most meth labs,” Grellner said, noting that Jefferson County is on pace to reach 400 labs this year.

“And now, all the labs are being powered by pseudoepherine from St. Louis city and county,” he said.

When Zephrex-D hits the market it should have a significant effect on meth labs in the St. Louis region. It will give people access to cold and allergy medicine yet can’t be used to manufacture meth,” Grellner noted.

“I think at this point there is no reason for anyone to complain,” Grellner said.

Springfield Next

Grellner said the city of Springfield, Missouri’s third-largest city, is poised to discuss adopting a prescription law there.

“If those three (St. Louis City, Springfield and St. Louis County) pass prescription laws, there will be no reason not to follow through with a statewide law,” he said.

Grellner has been crisscrossing the state to push for local prescription laws because the state Legislature has repeatedly refused to adopt a statewide measure.

Now, more than 70 communities — cities and counties — have adopted prescription laws since 2009 when Washington became the first city in the nation to pass that regulation.