Timeline: Big Pharma’s Fight to Protect the Drugs That Cooks Turn Into Meth

Box: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/laurafries/61632567/sizes/m/in/photolist-6rTdt-8K7GFS-tq3vU-4oggzn-xDWaB-5rZU3R-yandg-DubsE-2mzvGx-8xjGx-6iwFdw-JPiT8-5WgcGe-7GbCdz-D3b81-4K6Z6n-azfrLa-7vxv1t-DP9pu-5NcMhv-wD95T-aua2xz-aNvkpD-5G7NbT-5pDo4V-4hRsUG-5VvdRi-qLMT8-5VHPsB-4rk8oN-723DAg-7oCGE8-DLFhQ-bWSx3Z-87Tyv-dSR7GH-aA9wyZ-asYD1p-2SSbm8-818BPD-8LYXcA-8Fyn35-8TWCnm-ggUrS-yxgyP-5NRkrK-9MGDaR-bXrNW9-5k2PhB-5LHBCZ-921met/">LauraFries.com</a>/Flickr; Pills: <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sudafed_Pills.jpg">ParentingPatch</a>/Wikimedia Commons; Chef: Shutterstock





The federal government tightens restrictions on phenyl-2-propanone, used to make methamphetamine.

Meth producers switch to ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, used in cold meds, to produce a more potent form of meth.


Fresh from its, and so far only, victory against a drug—control of the chemical used to make quaaludes—the Drug Enforcement Administration proposes controls for ephedrine and pseudoephedrine.

Pharma lobbyist Allan Rexinger calls the White House, which “basically intervened on our behalf,” Rexinger tells the Oregonian in 2004. “After that we had useful negotiations with the dea.”


The Federal Chemical Diversion and Trafficking Act mandates recordkeeping for various drug precursor chemicals. Industry wins an exemption for ephedrine and pseudoephedrine in pill form.

Meth producers and their suppliers switch to ephedrine and pseudoephedrine in pill form.


The Domestic Chemical Diversion and Control Act closes the ephedrine pill loophole, but pseudoephedrine exemption remains.

Labs switch from ephedrine to pseudoephedrine pills.


The Comprehensive Methamphetamine Control Act closes the pseudoephedrine pill loophole. Industry, with help from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), wins exemption for pills sold in blister packs.

Labs switch to blister packs.


The Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act reduces the amount of pseudoephedrine that can be sold in a single transaction. Blister packs are again exempted.

Meth labs proliferate nationwide.


Oklahoma becomes the state to put pseudoephedrine behind the counter. Industry fights the measure.

Meth labs plummet in Oklahoma, encouraging other states to follow suit.


The Federal Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act requires stores to put pseudoephedrine behind the counter (without requiring a prescription) and limits how much an individual can buy. Industry says this will hurt consumers and won’t reduce labs.

Meth lab incidents fall 61 percent nationwide. But cooks begin employing smurfers to go from pharmacy to pharmacy and buy the maximum amount allowed.


Oregon makes pseudoephedrine a prescription drug despite massive industry lobbying.

Meth lab incidents decrease 96 percent in Oregon over the next six years.


Bucking industry opposition, Mexico bans most pseudoephedrine.

Potency of meth being smuggled into the US plunges as Mexican labs switch to other chemicals.

2009 to present

Lawmakers in 24 states try to make pseudoephedrine a prescription drug. In DC, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden drafts a federal prescription bill.

All but one of the bills are defeated. Citing consumer concerns and “heavy industry spending,” Wyden never introduces his legislation.