What Is the Role of Pharmaceutical Companies In Meth Epidemic

What Is the Role of Pharmaceutical Companies In Meth Epidemic

Meth (Methamphetamine) is a powerfully addictive drug, a stimulant that markedly affects the user’s central nervous system.  Meth is commonly known as speed and chalk, and in its smoked form it is referred to as crank, crystal, ice and glass. It is easily made in “underground” labs with relatively inexpensive over-the-counter ingredients.  The combination of these factors of easy accessibility, low cost, and the ability to make it in clandestine labs contribute to its high potential for widespread use and abuse.  Because it is such a dangerous and highly addictive drug, it becomes a point of major interest as to what part Big Pharma plays in the epidemic of meth labs, and meth’s use and abuse across the United States.

A Brief History of Meth Use

There has been a spread of meth labs across the US since the early 2000s, and according to Mother Jones, the drug industry is using “campaign-style dirty tricks” to be able to continue selling the “meds that cooks turn into crank.”

Mother Jones magazine reports that since 2007,there has been an nationwide increase of 63% in the number of meth site busts by police.  In the state of Kentucky, one of the most severely infested by meth labs and abuse, the number of meth sites found by police has more than tripled since 2007.

This extreme increase in meth production is likely due to the “shake-and-bake” method of cooking meth, also called the “one-pot” method which became popular with users in this time period.  This method of producing meth from the OTC (over-the-counter) drug,  pseudoephedrine,a decongestant ingredient found in common cold and allergy medicines like Sudafed, opened the door for meth cookers to produce meth with only a handful of inexpensive and OTC ingredients.  The meth cookers no longer needed complex chemistry sets to produce the meth, instead needing only kitchenware.  Consequently, production of meth easily shifted to poor, rural America.

The Politics and Greed of Big Pharma

Although lawmakers in 25 of the states in the US have taken action attempting to make pseudoephedrine a prescription drug rather than an all too easily accessible OTC drug, only the two states of Oregon and Mississippi have succeeded in enacting these proposed bills into law.  Why?

According to the magazine, it is Big Pharma.  (Pharmaceutical companies, referred to as Big Pharma , now the largest and most profitable industry on the planet, including Phizer, Astra Zeneca. Glaxosmithkline, and Merck.)

Across the United States, the drug manufacturers and those retailers who sell their products have engaged in powerful lobbying efforts to ensure the public maintains their easy access to the decongestant, pseudoephedrine.  If  people are aware of the untold damage and devastation that meth and meth labs wreak upon both humans and the environment, they might ask why?  Why would Big Pharma and its retailers lobby against and block the passage of laws which could prevent such enormous harm?  The answer?  Follow the money.  Big Pharma makes approximately $605 million dollars per year on pseudoephedrine-based products.

Kentucky state attorney Jackie Steele lamented the situation to Mother Jones, saying it was frustrating to see how an industry and its corporate money affected “commonsense legislation.”

In 2004, when the drug industry engaged in a long and expensive battle in Oregon, attempting to stop a bill to take pseudoephedrine off the shelves and put it behind the pharmacy counter, they claimed the proposed legislation would do little to control or curb the burgeoning meth labs in the state at that time.  Rob Bovett, an attorney for the drug task force in Lincoln County, Oregon, said both the drug companies and the retailers flooded the Oregon Capitol building with out-of-state lobbyists.  Despite the questionable tactics and money motivation of the drug industry and its retailers, the bill was enacted into law in 2006, and the number of meth lab busts has dropped 96 % since that time.

Unfortunately, in the meantime, the Mother Jones website reports that Big Pharma has doubled its lobbying efforts in the states of Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and Indiana, the four states in the US with the highest incidence of meth lab busts.

Most sobering is the fact that since 2009, 23 states in our nation have attempted to pass bills into law which would make pseudoephedrine a prescription drug, and take it off the counters in an attempt to prevent meth and meth lab abuses.  Unfortunately, only the state of Mississippi has succeeded in passing the legislation.  As a result, according to the Mississippi narcotics bureau, there was an 81% drop in the number of drug-endangered children in the state.

Methamphetamine continues to be readily available and spreading its damage rapidly across the United States.   It is time for Big Pharma to step-down so our states can enact the laws needed to protect them from meth and meth lab abuses.