Sikeston City Council to consider requiring prescription for pseudoephedrine

Thursday, March 25, 2010

SIKESTON, Mo. -- City officials are contemplating a measure that would make it harder for drug manufacturers to get essential methamphetamine ingredients.

"Pseudoephedrine is the key ingredient and meth cooks have to have it," Sgt. Jim McMillen, public information officer for the Sikeston Department of Public Safety, said in a recent news release. "We have a responsibility to keep this from those who want to use it for manufacturing methamphetamine."

Bill 5812, which would require a prescription to purchase pseudoephedrine, is scheduled for its first reading and council discussion at Monday's work session. A second reading is tentatively set for the regular city council meeting at 5 p.m. April 5, said Linda Lowes, director of governmental services for the city.

Pseudoephedrine is used to treat nasal and sinus congestion. A law passed in 2005 requires medicines containing it to be placed behind pharmacy counters and purchases to be restricted in quantity, but no databases track the amount a customer has purchased at other stores. Therefore, people can travel from store to store to purchase it.

If adopted, the local bill will set forth measures including:

* Purchases of ephedrine products will require a prescription by a physician or health care professional licensed in Missouri and it must be filled by a Missouri-licensed pharmacist;

* The theft, disappearance or loss of ephedrine products by a pharmacy must be reported to the Sikeston Department of Public safety within 24 hours of discovery;

* Any difference in the quantity shipped to a pharmacy and the actual quantity received must be reported to the Sikeston Department of Public Safety within 24 hours.

Additionally, it will make it illegal to sell, deliver or distribute ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and their ingredients without a valid prescription and any individual who discovers a theft, loss or disappearance of an ephedrine product must report it to DPS within 24 hours.

Similar ordinances have been passed recently in Kennett, Mo., and Poplar Bluff, Mo.

The issue was a topic at February's annual Youth in Government Mock City Council Meeting. There, students, council and staff were briefed on the basics of ephedrine, its use in the production of meth and the affects of meth on communities before students passed the ordinance.

"It was following this event that council instructed staff to proceed with the drafting of local legislation," said Lowes.

She noted that the council and Sikeston's Criminal Investigations Unit have sought the opinions of local pharmacists about their feelings on such legislation. Of the seven pharmacies responding, four fully supported the measure, two had mixed feelings and one preferred the creation of a statewide database to track pseudoephedrine purchases.

Mike Tullis, pharmacist at Super D in Sikeston, said he is "excited" to see Sikeston propose such an ordinance.

"We are bombarded on a daily basis by suspicious-looking characters requesting 24-hour Sudafed, the most potent," he said. "I will be glad to see this problem go away or relocate. Hopefully, then the entire state will enact such legislation."

Tullis noted he works in the Poplar Bluff location once a week. "And after they passed their ordinance, I started seeing people driving from there to Sikeston and likely Dexter," he said.

At times, he'll follow a customer outside and find that there are several people in the vehicle and they come into the store one at a time to purchase the medicine.

Ernie Moxey, pharmacist at The Medicine Shoppe in Sikeston, did not wait for legislation and enacted a personal policy at his pharmacy requiring prescriptions last month.

"We were seeing way too much traffic for the pseudoephedrine that we felt was not legitimate," he said.

Moxey said he and his staff worked to procure the prescriptions for regular customers "so it would not in any way inconvenience them."

As current legislation requires customers show identification when asking for the drugs behind the counter, Moxey said he's noticed a lot more customers from the Poplar Bluff area since its town ordinance was enacted.

Although Moxey said the policy has worked for his store so far, he said he knows it won't eradicate the meth problem.

"This is just a Band-Aid approach and will drive [the buyers] on to the next town, but it will take care of Sikeston's problem," he said. "But it's not ideal -- I would much rather see [the state] do a computer network where all of the pharmacies are integrated."

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