Cold and flu drugs containing pseudophedrine may be sold only on prescription, Australian police are suggesting.
The suggestion is coming in the run-up to the Chemical Diversion Congress 2009, hosted by the New South Wales Police Force Drug Squad. The three-day convention, opening Wednesday brings together all the agencies involved in putting down drug trafficking. They particularly seek to prevent diversion of precursor chemicals into the manufacture of deadly amphetamines such as methylamphetamine (ice/speed) and MDMA (ecstasy).
The police want all pseudoephedrine-based medicines to be accessed only through an appointment with a GP - a big step-up from the current system, which requires proof of identification at pharmacies and imposes a limit of one packet per customer for some medications.
NSW drug squad commander Detective Superintendent Nick Bingham backed the move as "viable" and a "natural progression". He said it would cripple many of the state's organised crime gangs, which depend on pseudoephedrine to manufacture drugs such as ice (methylamphetamine) and speed.
It is estimated that a third of the pseudoephedrine used to make ice is bought or stolen from pharmacies, Sydney Morning Herald reported.
"Pseudoephedrine has developed into a highly sought-after drug on the black market," Superintendent Bingham said.
"As further restrictions have been placed on its availability, it's left various levels of the industry exposed to serious crime. We're not just talking pharmacies, but robberies from logistics and warehousing. It's a huge problem and it's on the increase."
Last month Nick Bingham had issued a warning about the dangers of clandestine labs in public and suburban areas.
"The types of chemicals used in the manufacture of drugs are toxic and can be hazardous if used in confined areas.
"As such, the use of such chemicals in areas accessible by the public, or in areas such as residential housing, can prove dangerous.
"Anyone who suspects they may be living or working near a possible clandestine laboratory, is urged to contact their local police station immediately, or Crime Stoppers," he had said.
Earlier this month New Zealand had made pseudophdrine a prescription-only drug.
Prime Minister John Key declared, "I am determined that we will use the full force of the Government's arsenal to fight the problem of P, a seriously addictive drug that is ruining lives."
However, Pharmacy Guild of Australia spokesman Greg Turnbull opposed the proposal.
"(The proposal) would penalise all the people in the community who use those medications appropriately," he said.