Crystal meth fears threaten flu remedies

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Some over-the-counter flu remedies could be made prescription-only following fears they are being used to make an illegal and highly addictive drug.

Pseudoephedrine and ephedrine are contained in some flu remedies and help to unblock congestion in the nose and sinuses.

But they can be used to make the drug crystal meth "relatively easily", according to both the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca).

An increase in the number of illicit laboratories manufacturing crystal meth has been found by police as well as cases of people buying multiple flu remedy packs from numerous pharmacies for its manufacture.

In January this year the Home Office reclassified crystal meth, known as methylamphetamine, as a class A controlled drug. It is usually smoked, snorted or injected and has similar effects to cocaine.

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) is currently considering proposals from the Commission on Human Medicines to change the legal status of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine.

In a written House of Commons answer, health minister Caroline Flint said: "Although the prevalence of misuse of methylamphetamine is believed to be currently low in the United Kingdom, Acpo are receiving increasing levels of intelligence about the prevalence of methylamphetamine.

"If methylamphetamine did secure a hold in the UK, the consequences would undoubtedly be very serious."

She added that international examples show misuse of crystal meth can "spread rapidly when certain conditions prevail and the advice of UK enforcement authorities is that most of these conditions now prevail in the UK".

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