Part 3: Stopping Meth: Is This The Solution?

A new drug could eliminate the meth-making process.

Franklin County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Jason Grellner has been busting meth labs since 1997.

As Unit Commander of the Franklin County Narcotics Unit, which works in conjunction with the St. Louis County Drug Task Force, he's been following meth trends and knows where the hot spots are around Missouri.

He warns St. Louis County residents that meth is moving to their community and, has shared the numbers that support his claim.

"There aren't many crimes we can stop in the end, but meth labs is one we can. And the only reason we haven't is because the pharmaceutical companies are spending millions of dollars fighting us and the reason they are spending millions is because they are making billions on pseudoephedrine," Grellner said.

Pseudoephedrine sales have spiked in St. Louis County since surrounding counties, including St. Charles and Jefferson counties, have passed ordinances requiring a prescription to purchase the key meth-making ingredient. St. Louis County does not have such an ordinance, although some cities within the county do. 

"If they're buying pseudoephedrine there, they are making meth there," Grellner said.

Grellner points out that mobile meth labs are becoming more popular as criminals are creating where they make the drug by simply using a plastic soda or water bottle. So, although police may not be seeing more labs in homes, meth is moving to St. Louis County.

However, Grellner said there are two current projects in the works that he sees as solutions to the problem. One is House Bill 1952, which would make it state law to require people to have a prescription to purchase the drug pseudoephedrine

The second solution is a newly-developed product that cannot be converted into meth. House Bill 1952 allows an exemption for this product so patients would not need a prescription.

"Highland Pharmaceuticals has developed a technology that when deployed with the pseudoephedrine, it can be efficacious to the consumer and yet cannot be turned into meth," Grellner said. "You can get the pseudoephedrine you want for your allergies and people just can't make meth out of it."

Grellner said the technology is not yet on the market, but Highland Pharmaceuticals, based in Maryland Heights, already has a major retailer in the St. Louis area interested in carrying the product. Grellner expects it to be available in the next month or two.

"Now if anybody argues against it, it's all about the money," he said. "Especially when there is a low-cost alternative."

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