Pharmacists welcome drug law changes
A law change making the methamphetamine pre-cursor ingredient pseudoephedrine more difficult to access can't come soon enough for pharmacist Warren Flaunty.
Pseudoephedrine, a drug commonly found in cold, flu and hayfever medication, will be reclassified from a class C to B2 controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act (No 2) 2011 on Thursday.
Pharmacies will no longer stock bulk supplies of the drug and people will only be able to buy pseudoephedrine-based products using a prescription from their doctors.
Flaunty says there have been break-ins and hold-ups at his pharmacy by people who are after the products to make methamphetamine over the last 15 years.
The crimes have had an impact on his employees.
"We had an armed hold-up a couple of years ago and the stress finally told on a couple of staff members who left because of it," Flaunty says.
"And I've lost count of the number of break-ins at my pharmacies in Westgate and Massey over the years.
"It's a shame that the behaviour of a minority has affected things for the majority of people who use it for cold and flu symptoms."
But Flaunty says there are a number of products available made with phenylephrine, a substitute for pseudoephedrine.
"I've been advocating for this for about eight years and finally it has come to fruition."
Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says reclassification of pseudoephedrine will give the police and Customs Service increased powers to control supply.
"While most pseudoephedrine and ephedrine used in the manufacture of P has been sourced internationally, reclassification is still an important part of the equation.
"Police continue to find domestically sourced pseudoephedrine at clandestine methamphetamine laboratories and the Health Committee in its report noted that the methamphetamine market is worth around a billion dollars annually and that at least 10 per cent of this is manufactured from domestic pseudoephedrine.
"Therefore we cannot ignore over a hundred million dollar's worth of the methamphetamine market – we need to complement the valuable work of the Customs Service and strengthen our response to domestic diversion."
Flaunty hopes thieves will stop targeting pharmacies once they realise large supplies of the drugs aren't being stocked.
"For $50 to $100 worth of goods they would cause $1500 worth of damage," he says.
Henderson Medical Centre pharmacy owner-manager Rob Baker says the store has been the target of break-ins for pseudoephedrine-based products.
"So hopefully this will have an impact," he says.
Baker says pseudoephedrine-based products will no longer be available without a prescription but there are alternatives available.
"People will still be able to buy suitable cold and flu treatments."
Waitemata police criminal investigations detective inspector Bruce Scott hopes reclassifying pseudoephedrine will reduce the number of break-ins at pharmacies.
But he says it is hard to estimate how much methamphetamine is being produced in New Zealand, let alone where the precursors are coming from.
"It's very difficult to quantify. But hopefully it will also make it harder for people to get it over the counter," Scott says.
"And obviously it's something we're going to monitor."