The minister planning to put pseudoephedrine back on pharmacy shelves has been warned by officials that the move could fuel meth-related crime — echoing earlier concerns of pharmacists.
ACT pledged to restore over-the-counter sales of the medicine at the election, with leader David Seymour saying at the time that “older New Zealanders have noticed that being able to find an over the counter cold and flu medication that actually helps is getting harder”.
The drug has been a prescription-only medication since 2011. It’s a key precursor ingredient in the manufacture of methamphetamine.
The drug — available under the brand name Sudafed in New Zealand — is prescribed for sinus decongestion.
Associate health minister Seymour confirmed to 1News that he received “a long list” of advice regarding the drug, describing “all the possible things that could happen”.
“There have been some risks raised that there has been crime related to it in the past, but the benefits are enormous.”
He said that he would not step down as minister if there was an outbreak of pseudoephedrine-related crime.
“Ultimately it’s not right for people who are following the law and going about their business and not harming anyone else to be held responsible for the action of criminals.”
Pseudoephedrine was taken off the shelves by John Key’s government because so much of it was being used to cook meth.
Some are concerned a reversal will see meth cooks back in the kitchen and pharmacies in danger.
Mangawhai pharmacist Lanny Wong said that if it became harmful, the product would not be stocked.
“If it becomes harmful and becomes a health and safety issue where my staff are being harassed all the time, I probably will have to make a hard decision not to stock this product.”
Retired pharmacist Warren Flaunty said his pharmacies were often targeted and that he expects hold ups.
“We’re going to have burglaries after hours and I just hope no one gets injured or hurt or even killed.
“It would be on [David Seymour’s] head if something like that happens and I’m certain something like that is going to happen once it becomes available again.”