Special Report: War on Meth - Part 2

Updated: Friday, February 15 2013, 07:35 AM EST
Special Report: War on Meth - Part 2 story image
(NEWSCHANNEL 3) - It's dangerous, highly addictive, and it costs Michigan taxpayers tens of millions of dollars every year.

In a Newschannel 3 special report, we're taking an in-depth look at the War on Meth.

Numbers show that new anti-meth legislation is increasing meth-related arrests.

It's doing little, however, to stop the production of meth labs.

Police agencies say there's a cure for meth, but there appears to be no support for the cure in Michigan.

In part one of this investigation, we showed you how the National Precursor Log Exchange, or NPLEx, is being picked up by one state after another, deemed by lawmakers and corporate dollars to be the answer to pseudoephedrine.

The states that are actually winning the war on meth don't rely on NPLEx though.

Stopping illegal pseudoephedrine use means damaging overall sales, and anti-meth legislation has done little to stop the epidemic.

But there's another fight coming.

"There's a cure, and it's making pseudoephedrine a prescription drug," said Chief Rick Hoyer of Allegan Police. The area is known as a meth hot-spot.

After seeing 448 meth labs in 2004, Oregon started requiring a prescription in 2006, and the numbers since 2007 are unbelievable.

"In 2012, month by month, they had 5, 1, 0, 0, 0, 0 meth labs," said Michigan State Senator Rick Jones.

In 2010, Mississippi became the only other state to follow suit.

Since then, meth arrests have dropped 62 percent, meth labs 67 percent, and child victims 83 percent.

"We certainly have thought about it; we've had a number of sheriffs and police chiefs especially from southwest Michigan ask for it," Sen. Jones said.

But there is resistance at every level.

"You know, to penalize the entire population who legally uses a safe, over-the-counter drug with now a prescription-only operation I think is more than we should be doing at this time," State Senator John Proos said.

Sen. Proos helped make Michigan the 18th state to join NPLEx.

"I think the last thing anybody wanted to do was to have citizens and residents of southwest Michigan have to get a prescription at 3 in the morning," Proos said.

However, pharmacists say there are plenty of other options for that 3 a.m. stuffy nose emergency.

Mike Smith, a pharmacist for 36 years, says a compound called phenylephrine works as a decongestant, but is not as easily converted to methamphetamine as pseudoephedrine.

He says it's not as effective, but that the pros outweigh the cons.

While he admits that making pseudoephedrine prescription-only will affect business, he said "it almost ensures that whoever's buying it is going to use it for what it's intended to be used for."

That doesn't appear to be enough incentive though.

"Certainly the drug companies are pleased with having the NPLEx system in place," Senator Proos said. "So much so that they're paying for it to be implemented state-wide."

Chief Hoyer believes he knows why.

"This is crime versus commerce," he said.

In 2012, the Allegan-based Perrigo drug company posted record sales and earnings, grossing nearly $3.2 billion worldwide, according to its website.

It recently committed $242 million to facilities in Allgean and Holland Charter Township, promising to create 650 jobs.

Another global pharmaceutical company that plays a big role in Michigan's economy is Pfizer, which had more than $67 billion in revenue in 2011.

As pharmaceutical giants post record profits, we found another upward trend in Michigan.

"In the past probably 5 to 10 years, it's been growing, probably 10 to 15 percent each year," said Colin Parks of Child Protective Services, referring to child victims of meth.

They are poisoned by manufacturing, neglected by addicted parents, or even disfigured and disabled in lab explosions.

Parks says Michigan removed nearly 400 such children in the first full year NPLEx was in place.

When we approached Perrigo about this story, we were repeatedly denied an interview, and finally promised a statement that was never issued.

Meanwhile, after three weeks of repeated calls and voicemails, Newschannel 3 still has not heard a response from Pfizer.

Throughout the course of our investigation, we spoke with officers, worried that we would raise awareness before prescription legislation had the appropriate support in Lansing.

They're concerned that corporate profits will squash the effort before it even begins.

In days ahead, we will be contacting more Michigan lawmakers, and we are planning to continue to contact the drug companies to find out if they believe prescribing pseudoephedrine isn't a good idea and why.
Special Report: War on Meth - Part 2
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