Pseudoephedrine (PSE) is a chemical that is contained in some cold medicines and is also used to make methamphetamine. For many years, pharmaceutical industry lobbyists have argued that at most 2-5% of PSE-containing medicine sold in the “meth belt” is used by meth cooks. A new study [gated] published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has shown that this claim is false.
The researchers correlated the amount of pseudoephedrine sales in each Kentucky county with the number of meth labs, and found that the link between the two is in fact strong:
A 1-g increase in pseudoephedrine sales per 100 people was associated with a 1.7% increase in laboratories. For a typical county, a 13-g per 100 resident increase in pseudoephedrine sales was associated with approximately 1 additional laboratory.
The disproportionate concentration of PSE sales in counties with serious meth problems was remarkable. Most strikingly, per capita sales of PSE in a county with 25,600 residents were 565 times higher than per capita sales of PSE in a county with 13,800.
Historically, cold medicine industry lobbyists have ignored or distorted scientific evidence on the role of the industry’s products in the meth epidemic. This new study certainly won’t cause them to change their spots; after all, the industry has for years possessed (but not released) the same sales data the researchers used to conduct the study. But the new findings should make it harder for industry lobbyists to throw dust in the eyes of reality-based legislators in meth-ravaged states.