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New Meth-Busting Decongestant in Local Pharmacies This Month

Zephrex-D is a new decongestant that drug agents say cannot be converted into methamphetamine. A prescription will not be required to purchase the drug in some areas.

Zephrex-D, a new decongestant that its manufacturer and St. Louis-area drug agents say cannot be converted into methamphetamine, is set to hit local pharmacies this month.

Since its maker and drug agents say it cannot be converted into meth, it will also be sold without a prescription in some counties that have recently passed ordinances requiring a prescription to purchase pseudo-ephedrine products like Claritin-D and Allegra-D.

Zephrex-D is manufactured by Maryland Heights-based Highland Pharmaceuticals. Westport Pharmaceuticals is a subsidiary of Highland. Paul Hemings, with Westport Pharmaceuticals, isn't giving specifics yet, but tells Patch that the drug will soon be shipping to area pharmacies.

"We have major retailers lined up. We have purchase orders in the system. We will be shipping early November and the product will be on retailer shelves no later than mid-November," Hemings tells Patch.

Zephrex-D will only be available in the St. Louis market when it comes out this month. Hemings said it will be available in a number of counties, including St. Louis, St. Charles and Jefferson counties. 

St. Louis is the test market for Zephrex-D for two reasons: because Highland Pharmaceuticals is headquartered here and because Missouri has the largest meth problem in the United States and is considered "Meth Capitol U.S.A."

"The primary reason is, this is meth central," Hemings said.

As it stands today, Zephrex-D will be behind the pharmacy counter because of how all pseudo-ephedrine products are regulated. They are required to be behind the pharmacy counter, require and ID to purchase them and there is a limit to how much can be purchased at a time. Hemings said that is all regulated by federal law.

"Until we change something at the federal level. Those will all remain behind the counter," Hemings said.

Some Missouri cities and counties also require a prescription to purchase all drugs containing pseudo ephedrine. However, Hemings said Westport Pharmaceuticals has applied for exemptions to those rules in Franklin and St. Charles counties, where county-wide ordinances are in place, and they have been granted the exemptions. Therefore, shoppers will not need prescriptions in those two counties.

St. Louis County does not have a prescription requirement, but many cities have passed such requirements. Westport has not applied for exemptions yet to cities within St. Louis County that have the prescription requirements, but the company plans to address cities once Zephrex-D is in pharmacies.  

"We are consumed by getting this to market, but we will absolutely take the time to deal with the cities who have passed the pseudo-ephedrine laws. It's just a matter of time," Hemings tells Patch. "It really is a workload matter right now."

It would also require only applying to the county for an exemption instead of each individual city so the drug can be sold without a prescription. Hemings is not sure how long it will take for future exemption requests to be granted.

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