DEA Disputes Claim New Cold Medicine Can’t Be Used To Make Meth

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MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO (KTVI)-- The Federal Drug Enforcement Administration is in an escalating dispute with a St. Louis County pharmaceutical company.

The Maryland Heights makers of a new decongestant made the media rounds to claim their new product could not be used to make meth. The DEA says not so fast.

It was 2011 when a Maryland Heights firm called Highland Pharmaceuticals first publicized its product, a nasal decongestant called Zephrex-D.

Highland claimed it could fight meth, because its ingredients could not be broken down by meth cooks to make methamphetamine.  The company said that meant new relief for congestion sufferers with no worries at all that the pills could be turned into meth.

So the St. Louis office of the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration tested Zephrex-D.  They sent the company a letter saying the drug had failed the test and that DEA chemists were able to manufacture meth from Zephrex-D.

The head of the St. Louis office wrote:

“I cannot agree with your company’s representation that the pseudoephedrine in Zephrex-D cannot be extracted and used in the illicit manufacture of methamphetamine.”

But Highland Pharmaceuticals has set up a subsidiary called Westport Pharmaceuticals to make and market Zephrex-D. And they're fighting back.

They want congress to give them an exemption to the federal fighting meth act by allowing Zephex-D to be sold over the counter without warning labels.

Six Missouri congressmen, including Lacy Clay, Ann Wagner, Vicki Hartzler, and Sam Graves are supporting the company.

And Westport Pharmaceuticals has hired Washington insiders, the Charles Group, to lobby congress.

The company also claims that 95 percent of meth cooks could never use their product to make meth, even if the DEA chemists did.

And that's what the company stresses, that the common meth cook using the so-called shake-and-bake or the one-pot method, could never make meth from their cold medicine. The DEA says that may be, but that sophisticated chemists in a sophisticated laboratory can use it to make meth.

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