9 Oct 2009

Flu tablets containing P ingredient to be restricted

7:46 am on 9 October 2009

Cold and flu tablets containing pseudoephedrine are to become presription-only medicines as the Government tries to fight the use of methamphetamine, also known as P.

Pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient in the cold and flu tablets, is the precursor drug for making methamphetamine.

Prime Minister John Key has announced a range of measures to combat the use of P and help those addicted.

An extra $22 million will go toward rehabilitation services for more than 3,000 addicts over the next three years.

The Customs Service will assign 40 extra staff to intercepting imports of the drug.

Mr Key says a new strategy targeting gangs who sell P and its manufacturers will be launched in November.

The Cabinet had been considering a report on the drug by the Prime Minister's science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman, who had recommended that pseudoephedrine be heavily restricted.

Mr Key says an outright ban on pseudophedrine products will still be considered.

The Labour Party says it will support Government moves to tackle the P problem but believes restrictions on pseudoephedrine will cost New Zealanders.

Move draconian, say pharmacists

The Pharmaceutical Society believes restricting pseudoephedrine is draconian.

Chief pharmacist adviser Euan Galloway says he is disappointed additional controls are being placed on a drug he describes as "very effective".

Mr Galloway says the alternative drug, phenylephrine, is not as effective and it is still unclear how restrictive the new classifcation on pseudoephedrine will be.

Mr Galloway says pharmacists supported the implementation of the STOP programme, which is being used in Australia, linking pharmacists and police electronically.

He is disappointed the Government rejected Australia's offer to implement and run the programme in New Zealand for a year free of charge.

Anti-P campaigner Mike Sabin, a former police detective who heads a consultancy group, believes the moves will not make enough of a difference to the huge methamphetamine industry in New Zealand.

Mr Sabin says New Zealand has to move from what he calls its "cavalier" attitude to drug-taking and the current harm minimisation strategy, to one that is about reducing demand.

Medical Association GP Council chair Dr Mark Peterson says doctors are better placed than a pharmacist to assess whether a person is legitimately buying the products.