Now that St. Charles County has amended its pseudoephedrine prescription law a local narcotics investigator who’s spearheading anti-meth legislation will be setting his sights on other counties, including Franklin County.
Last week, the amended prescription law went into effect when St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann signed the bill passed April 30 by the county council.
The new bill exempts any formula that blocks less than 5 percent of pseudoephedrine from being extracted to make meth from requiring a prescription.
Pseudoephedrine is the only ingredient that is vital to making meth.
Detective Sgt. Jason Grellner, head of the Franklin County Narcotics Enforcement Unit and a leading proponent of prescription laws, made a presentation earlier to the St. Charles County Council about a breakthrough formulation that prevents the extraction of pseudoephdrine from cold pills.
Grellner spearheaded the campaign to get local communities to pass prescription laws over the last three years. He started that effort after several failures by Missouri legislators to pass a statewide prescription law.
Union was the second community in the state to pass the prescription law, which now has been adopted by almost 70 communities around Missouri. Grellner said rather than contact all 70 local governments and have them amend their prescription ordinances it will be more efficient to have counties approve prescription laws with the exemption.
As counties pass the amended law, municipalities will be able to repeal their local laws, he noted.
The meth-resistant formula was developed by Highland Pharmaceuticals, Maryland Heights, which will market the product under the name Releva.
In tests by independent laboratories as well as the Franklin County task force and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), less than 1.5 percent of the pseudoephedrine could be extracted from Releva.
“The company is in production and very, very close to marketing the product,” Grellner said.
Highland had independent testing of the product for efficacy and it provided the same relief as other medications with pseudoephedrine.
Once it gets out in pharmacies, Grellner said he plans to go to boards in St. Louis County and city and urge them to pass prescription laws with the exemption for Releva. Those governing bodies have been resistant to passing prescription laws out of fear of a backlash over consumer access to the medications.
At the same time, most of the pseudoephrine now used in making meth in this region is being purchased at pharmacies in St. Louis city and county.
“This will give them the ability to pass the law without hampering patient access to the products,” Grellner said. “Once the new product hits the shelves there won’t be an argument against the (prescription) law.”
For now it will be sold only in pharmacies due to state and federal pseudoephedrine regulations, but if the federal Drug Enforcement Administration grants it an exemption under the Combat Meth Act, it could be sold on store shelves, he explained.
Meth Bill Dead
A statewide prescription law, with the exemption, filed by state Rep. Dave Schatz of Sullivan, is “dead” for this session, Grellner said. A hearing on the bill was held by the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee, but it failed to pass out of the committee, he explained.
If Highland is given the DEA exemption to place its products on open shelves, Missouri’s law would be “more restrictive” than the federal law and be more inconvenient for citizens, since they still would have to purchase the product through a pharmacy, Grellner said.
Inconvenience for citizens has been the main argument used by critics of a statewide prescription law.
“This gives us the opportunity to take care of the concerns of opponents who argue that the prescription law impeded law-abiding people from getting the drug,” Schatz told The Missourian after he filed the bill in January.