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Drug maker stops manufacturing Quaalude

SELLERSVILLE, Pa. -- The only domestic manufacturer of Quaalude has stopped producing the drug, citing 'unjustified negative publicity' and new laws banning the powerful sedative in nine states.

'This action has become necessary due to the increasingly adverse legislative climate surrounding the product and the resulting unjustified negative publicity upon our excellent company,' Lemmon Co., the only U.S. maker of products with methaqualone, the key substance in Quaalude, said Wednesday.

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Lemmon, which purchased Quaalude in 1978 from another suburban Philadelphia pharmaceutical company, said it would distribute the product to wholesalers through Jan. 31 to allow doctors time 'to safely transfer patients to alternative therapy.'

Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Connecticut, Mississippi, Texas and North Carolina have banned the sale of Quaalude, the company said, and the drug will become illegal in California and Illinois Jan. 1.

On the national level, the House criticized doctors Wednesday for overprescribing the drug, then passed legislation that would prevent physicians from prescribing it. The Senate must now act on the proposal.

Lemmon said the drug, which has been on the market since 1965, was proved safe and effective 'when used according to approved labeling.'

But Rep. J. Roy Rowland, D-Ga., who is a physician, said methaqualone has bad side effects and creates a dependency among users. He said the drug is no longer needed for medical purposes.

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Other lawmakers said the drug figured in serious traffic accidents involving young people.

Methaqualone was intended to be used to help people sleep, Lemmon said, but it was abused by people taking it for a 'high,' often combined with alcohol, and by doctors who prescribed it to patients without proper examinations.

'Widespread availability of illegally manufactured counterfeit methaqualone tablets and the illegal actions of so-called 'stress clinics' has led to the abuse of methaqualone and has detracted from its legitimate therapeutic uses,' the company said.

The federal government categorized Quaalude as having a legitimate medical purpose but also a 'high abuse potential.'

One Lemmon official, who asked not to be identified, said counterfeit Quaalude began appearing in the late 1960s.

People at the time had 'the mistaken impression that it was an aphrodisiac, which meant a large demand for the product,' the official said. 'This dried up supply of legally produced Quaalude tablets.'

Lemmon, which was recently acquired by Nattermann Cie. GmBH, a West German pharmaceutical concern, declined to reveal how much Quaalude it sold. The official would only say Quaalude was a 'significant' product for the company.

He noted that less Quaalude was being made because the federal government several years ago imposed a quota limiting the amount of Quaalude that could be sold each year.

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The official said the discontinuation of Quaalude may cause inconvenience for some patients, but he noted there are similar drugs available.

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