Popular cold medications are being pulled from some store shelves in Canada, to curb their use in the production of crystal methamphetamine.
As of Monday, medications containing pure pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, such as Sudafed Decongestant, will only be found behind the counters of pharmacies in some provinces â including Nova Scotia and P.E.I.
- INDEPTH: Crystal meth FAQ
Other medicines and allergy tablets that contain traces of the two drugs are being pulled from corner stores and gas stations in participating provinces. They will be sold only at pharmacies.
Pseudoephedrine and ephedrine are key ingredients in the production of crystal meth, a highly addictive drug that's relatively easy to make with items on household shelves.
The National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA) recently recommended reclassifying the medications, which led to the stricter controls. The umbrella organization only has the power to make suggestions, but actual changes can only be implemented by provincial pharmacy registrars.
'I think it's a good move to curb any sort of abuse': pharmacist
Halifax pharmacist Darren Dileo said he supports the reclassification of the drugs.
"I think it's a good move to curb any sort of abuse," Dileo said. "It certainly doesn't terribly inconvenience anybody. Generally we try and consult with people anyhow, so now we have it back here we can just let them know that."
Halifax police and provincial RCMP said crystal meth production is not the large problem in Nova Scotia that it is out west.
But the precaution is a good idea to keep the potential ingredients out of the hands of criminals, said Const. Jeff Carr, a spokesman for Halifax Regional Police.
The Nova Scotia College of Pharmacists, part of the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities that brought in the new rules, agrees.
"It seems to be a phenomenon that's working from west to east. So in the West, it's a full-blown problem. In the East, we're hoping to nip it in the bud, so to speak," said Susan Wedlake, registrar of the college.
The pharmacists group said the new system will let them keep a closer watch on drugs such as pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, letting them spot abuses more easily.
Grocers' protest, calling changes unfair
Some grocers, however, said the rules aren't fair or legal, noting that both British Columbia and Alberta have rejected the recommendation by the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers said it's obtained a legal opinion suggesting the rule change is beyond the legal jurisdiction of the Ontario College of Pharmacists. The group is calling on NAPRA to withdraw its rule change.
"The fact that NAPRA are allowing these products to remain exactly where they are, on the general shelves in a pharmacy, and to be purchased without any intervention by a pharmacist, renders pharmacy's motives for this decision suspect," Gary Sands, vice-president of the federation, said in a release Monday.