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Classification of ephedrine, pseudoephedrine

2 March 2004 Media release

Classification of ephedrine, pseudoephedrine part of campaign against dangerous drugs

Parliament will be asked this evening to approve a Misuse of Drugs Order in the name of Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton seeking to classify ephedrine and pseudoephedrine.

The Progressive leader said Parliament's approval is part of the drug classification process and follows the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs' examination late last year of the evidence on these drugs and the committee's recommendations on their appropriate classification.

"I expect the House to approve this motion because there is no doubt that
the illicit manufacture of methamphetamine from the precursor substances pseudoephedrine and ephedrine is a significant issue in many parts of New Zealand.

"These classifications form part of the coalition government’s strong response to the illicit manufacture of methamphetamine from these precursors," he said.

"First, it will provide a significant deterrent to those who are trying to import pseudoephedrine and ephedrine for manufacturing methamphetamine.

"Secondly, it will give enforcement agencies better legislative tools with which to combat the illicit use of these substances, and indicates a higher priority being given by enforcement agencies to this serious issue.

"Thirdly, it will still maintain access to these useful, effective and safe therapeutic substances for legitimate users," the Progressive leader said.

If Parliament approves the Misuse of Drugs Order, the classifications are likely to take effect next month.

ENDS

Background:

The Order seeks to make the substances pseudoephedrine and ephedrine Class C5 controlled drugs, except in circumstances where pseudoephedrine products are currently ‘pharmacy-only’ medicines, in which case they will become Class C3 controlled drugs. Officials are currently consulting the industry over regulations to clarify the classification of these products.

These classifications will make it illegal to import these products without a licence and will significantly increase the penalties for those illegally importing these precursors for use in illicit methamphetamine manufacture.

The classifications will give Customs wider powers to investigate importation syndicates including the ability to conduct controlled deliveries as well as allowing for penalties of up to 8 years imprisonment for those caught importing the drugs without a licence.
In the year 2000, approximately 10,000 tablets of pseudoephedrine were seized by Customs. In 2001, this number had increased to 32,000 and by 2002 254,000 tablets were seized. In 2003, Customs seized more than 830,000 tablets or powdered equivalent of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine from 433 inceptions.

The Labour Progressive government has already taken a number of initiatives to stop the diversion of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine into illicit methamphetamine manufacture. Police, the National Drug Intelligence Bureau and pharmacists have co-operated to minimize the success of those who 'shop' for over-the-counter pseudoephedrine products on behalf of methamphetamine manufacturers and this measure has met with success with the Self Medicating Industry Association noting that there has been a 21% decrease in pharmacy sales of pseudoephedrine products in the last 18 months – these are now back to the levels of December 1994.

ENDS

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