Our Opinion: Encouraging development in war on illegal drugs

In the war against illegal drugs, we consistently have encouraged a multi-pronged approach targeting both supply and demand.

A development that may impede manufacturing the dangerous and deadly substance methamphetamine is promising. But it represents only one new weapon in a continuing battle.

A key ingredient in making meth is pseudoephedrine, also used in many cold remedies.

State lawmakers now are considering legislation to attack meth by requiring a prescription to obtain cold medicines containing the ingredient. Those medicines already have been moved behind the counter and sales are limited and recorded, but meth makers continue to obtain them, often by hiring numerous purchasers.

We oppose the prescription requirement, because of the inconvenience — and added costs of doctors’ visits — for cold sufferers.

We welcome the prospect of a new form of pseudoephedrine that cannot be used to make meth.

The formulation — Tarex, to be marketed as Releva — was developed by a small pharmaceutical company in suburban St. Louis.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has subjected the substance to preliminary testing and a spokesman has pronounced its failure as a meth ingredient “promising.”

The development creates a new batch of issues regarding competition among pharmaceutical companies.

The head of the company that developed Tarex said his firm is willing to share with other, bigger companies, “but their approach has been to fight us.”

And a spokesman for the association that represents larger pharmaceutical companies said it is taking a wait-and-see approach.

Back at the Capitol, the development also creates new issues for lawmakers. If Tarex fulfills its promise, do lawmakers exempt it if they approve the prescription requirement? If so, have they tilted the playing field among pharmaceutical companies?

We continue to oppose the prescription requirement, and we are encouraged by the prospect that development of a meth-resistant cold remedy eventually will render the issue moot.

In the meantime, let us remain mindful that the war against illegal drugs will not be won with the development of one new weapon.

We must continue efforts to eliminate both supply and demand.

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