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No ban on cold & cough remedies, for now

12 February 2004 Media release

No ban on cold & cough remedies, for now

The coalition government has accepted Ministry of Health advice not to ban cold and cough remedies containing the ingredient pseudoephedrine at this time, Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton said today.

Pseudoephedrine is used in the manufacture of the illicit drug, methamphetamine.

"The Ministry of Health has recommended that the government does not ban medicines containing pseudoephedrine and ministers note and accept the recommendations, for now," the Progressive leader said.

"Of course, ministers will continue to monitor the situation to see if this issue needs to be revisited in the future if other government actions and programmes do not have enough effect on the country's serious methamphetamine problem," Jim Anderton said.

Last year, Jim Anderton told the Health Select Committee that he would consider banning methamphetamine ingredients psuedoephedrine and ephedrine if he could be assured that by doing so illicit methamphetamine production would be stopped or severely restricted.

At the time, however, his view was that last year's reclassification of methamphetamine into a Class A hard drug, steps in train to classify methamphetamine ingredients and other actions taken by the government, police, pharmacists and local communities would collectively provide the conditions and regulations required to stem the diversion of legal medicines into illicit methamphetamine manufacture.

Health officials have advised ministers that an outright ban now on cold and cough potions containing the ingredient pseudoephedrine risked doing more harm in the long term than any good it could do in the immediate future.

An outright ban now might have an initial impact on methamphetamine production, but it would also be likely lead to increasing illicit importation and use of other ingredients in methamphetamine manufacture by hard drug importation rings.

Health officials advise that while a ban on cold and cough remedies containing the ingredient pseudoephedrine could in time exacerbate illicit importation of ingredients for methamphetamine, among the immediate costs of banning pseudoephedrine in cold remedies would include increased visits to general practitioners by people who would have otherwise self-medicated.

As an oral decongestant, pseudoephedrine provides effective relief from symptoms of colds and flu for hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders. It is the most effective and safest treatment for treating the symptoms of nasal, sinus and eustachian tube congestion.

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