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Fighting Back Against Breaking Bad: Using Acura's Pill to Stop Smurfs

By Gareth MacDonald+

02-Sep-2013
Last updated on 02-Sep-2013 at 13:57 GMT

Using Acura Pill Tech to Stop Smurfs
Using Acura Pill Tech to Stop Smurfs

An anti-abuse formulation developed by Acura Pharmaceuticals is gaining in popularity in the US with Ohio-based Fruth Pharmacy becoming the latest firm to say it will stock the Sudafed rival Nexafed.

The technology behind Nexafed – called Impede – is used to produce tablets that contain both the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) pseudoephedrine and a mix of polymers which, when dissolved in solvents, form a thick gel that makes it hard to extract the drug active.

According to Acura tablets made using the latest version of the Impede platform – which was launched in July – yielded no measureable amounts of pseudoephedrine in tests, which compares with 34% extraction achieved with the previous iteration of the tech.

This is important because Sudafed is not only popular among people with colds. An increasing number of criminals are also using the product as a source of the pseudoephedrine they need to make the illegal drug methamphetamine, which is also known as ‘crystal meth’ or 'Shatner's Bassoon.'

Smurfing Bad

In the hit US TV show Breaking Bad criminals send accomplices – known as ‘smurfs’ – to buy pseudoephedrine-containing products from high street pharmacies, which is something that also goes on in the real world according to Fruth Pharmacy pharmacist Samuel Arco.

Arco told the Associated Press he routinely turns away people who seek pseudoephedrine products like the popular allergy medication Sudafed when he is suspicious they will use the drug to make meth.

"We know our customers. ... The effect that meth does on a person's visual appearance, we know what you're going to ask for before you open your mouth" he said.

This was echoed by company president Lynne Fruth who said that all 27 of the firm’s pharmacies would replace the 30-milligram version of Sudafed with Acura’s Nexafed, adding that other dosage strengths would be switched when available.

Nexafed – which was launched late last year - is sold in 1,400 pharmacies across the US according to Acura.

Highs and lows

The positive momentum for Nexafed is welcome news for Acura which earlier this week reported that a Phase II trial of another anti-abuse product fell short of its primary endpoints.

The study – known as Aversion H&A and conducted in collaboration with Pfizer subsidiary King Pharmaceuticals – compared an hydrocodone/acetaminophen pill made using Acura’s Aversion technology with a generic version of the same product.

The researchers found that, although people who tried to snort the drug like the Aversion version less, the results were not statistically significant. Acura said it is continuing to analyse the results.

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