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Mexico tightens pseudoephedrine sales July 19, 2007 - hemscott.com
MEXICO CITY (AP) - Mexico will begin requiring doctors' prescriptions for medicines containing pseudoephedrine and block over-the-counter sales of the substances to help curtail methamphetamine production.
Pharmacies will have until Aug. 31 to sell or return their inventories of the decongestant, which is used in a wide variety of cold medicines but also in the production of methamphetamine, the Health Department announced Wednesday.
Only the most closely regulated pharmacies will be allowed to sell drugs containing pseudoephedrine, which the department said has already been replaced in many cold remedies by substances that cannot be used in meth production.
'These actions help avoid the medication from being diverted for the production of methamphetamines,' the department said in a statement, noting that Mexico hopes to reduce its annual importation of raw pseudoephedrine -- which is not manufactured here -- from an estimated 40 tons to about 33 tons this year.
That is a fraction of Mexico's total imports in the early part of the decade, before stricter controls were put in place to combat the growing meth trade.
In a news release, the National Pharmacy Association said that between now and when the measure takes effect, pharmacies have been asked to limit each individual sale of pseudoephedrine to 60 milligrams or less.
The new regulations echo steps taken last year in the United States to limit direct access to the product and the amount customers can buy, and requiring identification and a signature for each purchase.
Pseudoephedrine is found in products used to relieve nasal or sinus congestion and respiratory allergies, but also is the main ingredient used to make methamphetamine, defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a 'powerful, highly addictive stimulant.'
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rusty Payne told The Associated Press earlier this month that once-widespread meth labs in the United States had been replaced by 'superlabs' in Mexico and by Mexican-run labs in some U.S. border states.
Illegal methamphetamine manufacturing became front-page news here on March 15, when police found more than $207 million hidden inside the walls of a Mexico City mansion owned by a Chinese-Mexican man, Zhenli Ye Gon.
Ye Gon was accused of importing 19 tons of a pseudoephedrine compound and has been charged with drug trafficking, money laundering and weapons possession. He denies the allegations.