Posted: Dec 6, 2012 7:43 PM by Krystal Scott
Updated: Dec 29, 2012 2:03 PM
COLUMBIA - Three retailers will carry Westport Pharmaceuticals' newest product Zephrex-D. This new product works as a nasal decongestant using pseudoephedrine, but it has been chemically altered so the molecules can't be broken down to create methamphetamine.
The St. Louis based pharmaceutical company has worked on the product for more than three years and it is now on shelves in pharmacies all over Missouri. Originally, the product was only going to be distributed to pharmacies near St. Louis but larger retailers like Wal-Mart, Walgreens, and CVS, Shnucks agreed to carry the product.
Zephrex-D will be available with a prescription and will be behind the counter but the company hopes the federal government will grant it an exemption an allow it to be available over the counter without needing a prescription or government tracking.
Paul Hemings, the Vice President of Westport Pharmaceuticals said the product would sell at a comparable price to other brand named pseudoephedrine products, which means its price is left up to retailers to decide. Currently it has been seen in stores from $3 to $6.
For now the company is hopeful it will help reduce meth and provide an option allowing the market to change. Hemmings said, "When you're sick and you walk into a pharmacy all you really care about at that time is making yourself feel better, so we have to demonstrate to shoppers our products work on that level but then the next level is truly to build awareness about it and you can get on board on the cause side."
According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, Missouri is a primary market area for Meth. The government and police forces have worked together to try and rationalize availability of pseudoephedrine, a basic element for making meth, by only allowing consumers to buy 30 tablets of pseudoephedrine a month. With that in mind, it takes 680 pills to make a batch of ‘shake and bake' meth.
The Department of Public Safety released reports for the 2011 Fiscal Yearshowing that last year there were 1,308 charges for possession of Meth.
What Professionals Think about Zephrex-D
Despite the excitement from the pharmaceutical company, some drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs aren't convinced the drug will actually help. Heather Harlin, Prevention Specialist for the Columbia Phoenix Program said, "We don't really expect this to change the numbers of the people we see omitted who have a substance use disorder, or someone who either has a dependency or substance abuse issue. For a couple of reasons, number one is that 90 percent of all addictions begin at adolescence. The second reason is people don't start with meth. They usually start with alcohol, tobacco or marijuana."
Harlin said parents, educators, and state officials have to look further up the stream at the gateway drugs such as alcohol, tobacco, and even marijuana to stop the substance abuse. She suggests that the passage of Proposition 1 will help increase the availability of mental health options for teens. Columbia City Council new amendment to city codes for server training,that would require all businesses that hold liquor licenses to train their staffs to look for fake I.D.'s. She also said parents have to pay attention and not buy into the notion that the kids will grow out of it.
Meth's Toll on Families
Take Liz Rehmer for example. She knew her son Doug was having problems with drugs but thought she could convince him to stop. Rehmer said, "After two or three years of that, it sounds like a pretty long time and that you are pretty stupid, but you know you're a mother. It's your job to nurture and protect your child, but I finally realized I couldn't do that."
Liz Rehmer's son Doug became addicted to meth at the age of 20. He used for seven years before he was caught manufacturing meth. He served a jail sentence for a year and a half.
During his stay he went to rehab. During that time Liz Rehmer started a Missouri chapter for Mothers Against Methamphetamine, and started presenting her story to schools all over Missouri.
Doug Rehmer, is a little soft spoken but opened up about his addiction and said it took over his life. He was thankful when the police arrested him in 2004, because he knew his life was about to change. Doug Rehmer said, " I hate to go there but I had just been through seven years of hell. I was living in my car, parking at a friend's house. You know, you only ate when you had money and you only had money when you made the right drug and money transaction."
Rehmer said meth was his drug of choice because meth gave a longer high than any other substance.
Fast forward seven years later, and Doug Rehmer works full time for his parents and travels across Missouri to schools with his mother to speak about the dangers of Meth.
Doug Rehmer has changed his lifestyle and habits and even helped his girlfriend recover from meth, but he is skeptical Zephrex-D will actually change that much for addicts. He said the kind of meth made with pseudoephedrine is not actually the meth that is causing the problem because it can become too expensive to make after paying everyone involved in the process.
Instead he said, "What's coming out of Mexico is the ice (smokable form of meth). The guy selling the ice has got pounds and pounds of it and he can sell out tonight and have another couple pounds of it in an hour or two. Somebody is setting on a whole bunch of it. There are houses full of it somewhere and they do that a lot better then send out a bunch of people."
Zephrex- D is one more method to stopping meth. Currently, Missouri requires buyers to show an ID to a pharmacist and sign logs that can be tracked by police.