Comments Off on St. Charles County meth lab incidents jump despite pseudoephedrine prescriptions

ST. CHARLES COUNTY • Methamphetamine lab incidents across St. Charles County increased despite the county’s requirement of prescriptions for the sale of cold medications containing a key meth ingredient, Sheriff Tom Neer said Thursday.

Neer, at a regional meeting of police and governmental officials, blamed the continued easy availability of over-the-counter medications containing pseudoephedrine at stores in nearby St. Louis County.


“We know that the….bulk of pseudoephedrine used to make meth in St. Charles County comes from St. Louis County,” Neer said.

Neer said St. Louis County police officials support the idea but that “the problem in St. Louis County appears to be more political than practical.”

Brazil, a Republican from Defiance, put it this way: “St. Louis County has not been a good neighbor. That’s a fact.”

Mac Scott, a spokesman for St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, said in a telephone interview that the issue continues to be “something we’re keeping an eye on.”

St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch confirmed that he now favors enacting a countywide prescription ordinance in his county because the meth problem has gotten worse there.

He previously had supported either a statewide or national prescription ordinance but had been neutral on a county plan.

Across St. Charles County there have been 147 meth lab incidents between January of this year and Sept. 1, compared to 111 during the same period a year ago. St. Charles County’s new prescription requirement went into effect on Aug. 30 of last year.

The county ordinance, covering both unincorporated areas and municipalities, was passed by the County Council at Neer’s request. The county remains the most populous jurisdiction in Missouri with a prescription mandate. Statewide, 70 cities and counties have such laws.

The regional meeting, at the St. Charles County Administration Building in St. Charles, was attended by more than 20 law enforcement officials from across the metro area.

A few elected officials also were present, among them St. Louis Alderman Jennifer Florida, a Democrat who recently introduced a proposed city pseudoephedrine prescription ordinance. Also there were Kathie Conway and Chuck Gatschenberger, two Republican state representatives from St. Charles County.

Opponents of prescription laws say law-abiding citizens are inconvenienced unfairly by such requirements and that some pay more by having to see a physician.

Among opponents are the Missouri Pharmacy Association and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which represents pharmaceutical companies.

They argue that a statewide database tracking sales should be given more time to help police find meth makers.

Sgt. Jason Grellner of the Franklin County sheriff’s department, who led the session Thursday, says the database is ineffective.

He also says a current state law limiting how many cold pills a person can buy each month hasn’t kept them from meth makers who send people from store to store.

Grellner on Thursday released data showing that 17 St. Louis County stores were among the top 30 sales outlets for pseudoephedrine products last month.

Seven St. Louis County stores were among the state’s top 30 in August 2011.

The sales leader statewide last month was the Walgreens store at 12345 St. Charles Rock Road in Bridgeton, with 1,570 packages sold. That’s up from 652 a year ago.

Grellner said prescription opponents may some of those purchases were due to St. Charles County cold and allergy sufferers simply driving to nearby Bridgeton to buy pills without a prescription.

But he said that’s unlikely at some other St. Louis County stores farther away from St. Charles, such as at 12098 Lusher Road near Highway 367. The number of packages of pseudoephedrine medications sold there increased to 853 last month from 387 in August 2011, he said.

Grellner said meth lab incidents dropped in Franklin and Jefferson counties after local prescription requirements were enacted there.

But the incidents began to increase again, he said, as meth makers increasingly went to St. Louis County to buy pseudoephedrine pills or bought them from middlemen from St. Louis County.

Lincoln County Sheriff Mike Krigbaum and Troy, Mo., Police Chief Jeff Taylor said that meth incidents had dropped after a Troy prescription requirement was enacted late last year. Their area is further from St. Louis County, Grellner pointed out.

Grellner, Neer and others also renewed their push for the Missouri Legislature to enact a statewide prescription law.

“We have only got so many pieces in the puzzle” completed, Neer said. “We need the whole puzzle put together if we’re going to eliminate one of the biggest scourges of society.”


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