WASHINGTON — Former Republican Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert last week wrote an editorial for the Washington Times supporting the use of tamper-resistant pseudoephedrine products like Acura Pharmaceuticals' Nexafed and Westport Pharmaceuticals' Zephrex-D.
"Two facts are clear," he wrote. "First, traditional pseudoephedrine products are getting accessed and converted to meth by both addicts and clandestine labs. We have to stop that. Second, as long as our policies remain stuck in neutral, we will continue to drift backward, kids dying because we are still using convertible pseudoephedrine products. What if we had relatively non-convertible products? Turns out, we do — and we need to use them."
While Hastert advocates "maximum access" to products containing PSE for the general public, he asserts that present-day policies combating methamphetamine production hasn't worked. "When [the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005] was enacted, we foresaw the one-day emergence of new, innovative technologies that prevented easy extraction and conversion of pseudoephedrine from cold medications into meth," he wrote. "Accordingly, we granted the Drug Enforcement Administration full authority to exempt from purchase restrictions any pseudoephedrine products that might come closer, by making conversion less economical. We provided an exemption for science that made it harder for traffickers to convert it to illicit meth."
Hastert suggested the DEA use this authority to exempt medicines like Nexafed and Zephrex-D from PSE purchase restrictions now.
"While DEA can do this alone, Congress is now rightly pressing the case for instant action. In a bipartisan way, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, Missouri Republican, has recently introduced HR 4502 — Stop Meth Labs and Enhance Patient Access Act," Hastert noted. That bill aims to “strike the right balance between keeping people safe and keeping people healthy,” and regrant to DEA “authority to balance the effectiveness of tamper-resistant technologies with processes currently being employed by meth manufacturers.”
The bill is backed by the National Narcotics Officers’ Association, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Major County Sheriffs’ Association and the Fraternal Order of Police, Hastert noted.
Hastert served at the U.S. House speaker from 1999 to 2007, and managed much of the nation’s anti-drug legislation from 1995 forward.