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Tighter Rules On Cold Medicine May Only Harm The Sick

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Tighter Rules On Cold Medicine May Only Harm The Sick

By Adam Roberts for NZPA.

Wellington, Oct 13, NZPA - Sick people will suffer more from tighter sales restrictions on medicine containing pseudoephedrine -- and it may not hurt the P trade as intended, the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand says.

Parliament's health committee is considering a bill to reclassify ephedrine and pseudoephedrine as Class B2 controlled drugs, meaning a prescription and Medsafe approval would be required for over the counter purchases.

Pseudoephedrine is a major ingredient in pure methamphetamine (P) and the amendment would limit access to make it more difficult for illegal manufacturers.

Society chief executive Richard Townley said pharmacy staff were already strict in their sale of the drug, and over the counter sales of pseudoephedrine were not the only way the drug made its way into the P trade.

The reclassification would hurt genuine sufferers, as Medsafe approval would be required before patients could be prescribed the drug, Mr Townley said.

Pseudoephedrine is used to treat symptoms of cold and flu, but it is also a treatment for priapism and blocked ear tubes.

In the case of priapism -- a persistent, painful erection of the penis unrelated to sexual stimulation or desire -- pseudoephedrine is an antidote.

Mr Townley expressed concern that sufferers would not get relief until the Health Minister or Medsafe were contacted.

There were other means of producing P, including illegal importation of substances such as ContacNT which contains a higher dose of pseudoephedrine than domestic cold and flu medicines.

Pseudoephedrine was not the only ingredient in P and there were no restrictions on other products, Mr Townley said.

"You just need to go on to the web to see that drain cleaners, methylated spirits, matches are the predominant requirements for converting it," he said.

The society proposed either no law change or that pseudoephedrine be re-classified as "pharmacist-only" medication.

If these recommendations failed, the Society recommended permitting only authorised prescribers, such as doctors or dentists, to prescribe the drug.

A further recommendation was to treat the drug in a similar way to morphine and cocaine, with controls and penalties for illicit use, but it could be prescribed by doctors for therapeutic purposes.

"The minister [would] not have to get involved with pseudoephedrine if it is being prescribed, but if you try and import it illegally or if you are held with too much of it then you can be shot with the severe penalties."

The bill also tightens the importation and supply of drug utensils and makes it an offence to possess them.

Hemp Store owner Chris Fowlie arrived at the committee with products from Mitre 10 that he said could be used to make drug utensils.

The law change would see the rise of harmful do-it-yourself methods using materials such as plastic bottles, risking poisoning.

He proposed that sale of utensils be restricted to people over 18, the display of utensils in the shop windows be prohibited and warning messages on the packaging mandatory.

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