Government reversing ban on cold medicine pseudoephedrine

The Government is set to reverse a ban on the purchase of the cough and cold medicine component pseudoephedrine, Associate Health Minister David Seymour says.   

National banned the chemical in 2011 aimed at choking domestic methamphetamine production, which pseudoephedrine was a key ingredient of. 

However, Seymour argued Kiwis were being "denied decent cold and flu medication, but the gangs are selling more methamphetamine than ever".  

"Pseudoephedrine was banned because of fears it would be used for methamphetamine production," said Seymour, who as ACT Party leader campaigned on the reversal of the ban. "The reality is that the gangs have far more effective ways of obtaining pseudoephedrine to manufacture methamphetamine and we should tackle these head on instead." 

While pseudoephedrine, a decongestant, was used in common over-the-counter cold medicines, it could also be used in meth production, prompting multiple countries to impose bans. Mexico banned it in 2007 and Bangladesh a decade later.    

"The current law isn't working and that’s why the Government is acting," Seymour said of New Zealand's ban.  

"I look forward to pharmaceutical companies applying to MedSafe for product approval in New Zealand. MedSafe is using an expedited process to approve the medicines as quickly as possible."  

Despite the reversal, the medicines would still be "subject to a level of oversight" and need to be bought directly from a pharmacist, Seymour said.  

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: Getty Images

Anti-drug campaigners have backed the ban's reversal, with one saying pseudoephedrine "holds no more value in the underworld than opioids do".  

The banning of the chemical had "pushed the market prices up at the end of the drug dealers", Puwhakamua rehabilitation founder Billy Macfarlane told the NZ Herald last year. 

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon in November confirmed the ban's reversal as part of the Government's 100-day plan.