The Times West Virginian


August 11, 2013

Prescription-only pseudoephedrine not the solution to state’s meth problem

Good intentions, sometimes, are not enough.

There could be a push in the West Virginia Legislature to tighten access to pseudoephedrine — a critical element in the making of addictive meth — by requiring a prescription to purchase it, the (Beckley) Register-Herald reported last week.

Indeed, there is a huge problem. According to The Charleston Gazette, West Virginia law-enforcement agencies have seized 332 meth labs in the first half of the year, on pace to more than double the number of busts last year. More than 100 of them were found in Kanawha County.

House Health and Human Resources Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, has asked Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to either initiate some litigation or investigate wholesalers and manufacturers of 15 common cold and allergy medications, all of which contain pseudoephedrine, needed to cook methamphetamine.

If Perdue is not satisfied, he is inclined to sponsor a bill requiring a prescription for the medication. Delegate John Ellem, a Wood County Republican, said he intends to offer such a bill for the third time in his legislative career.

It’s known as “the Sudafed bill,” one of the 15 targeted products.

Presently, only Oregon and Mississippi require prescriptions. In West Virginia, pharmacies keep pseudoephedrine behind the counter and demand photo ID for sales.

Under existing law, approved this year, consumers are limited to 3.6 grams a day, 7.2 each month, and 48 grams in a year.

The West Virginia Retailers Association said last Tuesday the real-time tracking system involving 28 states stopped the sale of nearly 10,000 boxes of pseudoephedrine. Mike Goff of the state Board of Pharmacy told the Charleston Daily Mail that’s only about 3 percent of total sales. The former state trooper says West Virginia stores sold more than 236,000 boxes between January and June.

Perdue said that meth lab busts “are increasing like crazy,” despite the electronic monitoring of sales via the National Precursor Log Exchange, or NPLEx.

Unfortunately, we believe requiring a prescription would bring disappointing results and unfairly hurt law-abiding citizens.

In fact, Carlos Gutierrez, director of governmental affairs for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, based in Washington, D.C., told the Register-Herald a prescription law could make matters worse.

“If a doctor prescribes it, he or she is able to prescribe as much as you want,” Gutierrez said.

“Imagine if I was able to get a prescription for a whole year. How are criminals not going to take advantage of that and then have no limit on how much pseudoephedrine product they’re able to obtain? Prescriptions are meant to be a health care function. They’re meant for a doctor to oversee a patient, make sure that they’re taking the appropriate amount of the product. They have never been an effective law-enforcement tool.”

To illustrate the abuse of prescriptions, Gutierrez pointed to the pain killer drug epidemic.

“The bottom line is that West Virginia, unfortunately, has an addiction problem, not the least of which, in fact, the biggest drug problem that the state has are prescription drugs,” he said. “Anyone who says prescription is a sudden elixir to this problem, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense, because the state’s No. 1 drug problem is in fact prescription drugs.”

Making pseudoephedrine prescription-only would also make it more expensive and add the cost of a doctor’s visit the those using it legitimately.

“The last thing we should be doing is thinking of putting an adequate, effective, safe medication that thousands of people use that’s already behind the counter and make that a prescription-only product,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez cites figures by the Drug Enforcement Agency showing that 80 percent of meth finds its way into this country via drug cartels.

“Even if Delegate Perdue’s proposal was 100 percent correct and 100 percent effective, you would only be tackling 20 percent of the problem at the cost of every citizen in the state,” he said. “I think there’s a better way. I think NPLEx is the envy of every prescription drug-monitoring program in the country.”

We realize the magnitude of the meth problem in West Virginia and appreciate the attention it’s receiving from lawmakers. Making pseudoephedrine prescription-only, though, is not part of the much-needed effort to continue to address the issue.

Text Only
  • Unsung heroes handling calls in emergencies are appreciated

    Thankfully, we live in a community where help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just by dialing three numbers — 9-1-1.
    During this week, which is recognized as National Public Safety Tele-Communicator’s Week nationwide, we need to remember that on the other end of that line are the men and women here in this county who are always there in case of accident, crimes, medical emergencies and any other catastrophic event.

    April 18, 2014

  • Message to ‘buckle up and park the phone’ is saving lives

    A figure that we haven’t seen that much in recent years is the highway death toll for a given period.
    Is the death toll up, down or just about the same as it was?
    The West Virginia Southern Regional Highway Safety Program has announced there were 325 highway fatalities in 2013, the second-lowest number on record.

    April 17, 2014

  • State native Burwell can ‘deliver results’ as Health and Human Services secretary

    Sylvia Mathews Burwell might not be a name with which most people are immediately familiar.
    For the past year, she has run the budget office under President Barack Obama.
    Prior to that, she served as president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program and later the Wal-Mart Foundation.

    April 16, 2014

  • Marion scores well in recent health report but could do better

    When it comes to area-wide studies, especially on health, there’s usually good news and bad news.
    So was the recent report on the health of America’s counties released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently. The nationwide county study evaluated health outcomes and health factors, and ranked counties accordingly.

    April 13, 2014

  • COLUMN: ‘Instant’ news not always reliable

    That little word has a pretty big meaning. With origins that date back to the 15th century, it means urgent, current, immediate.
    But think about how that word has developed over the past few decades.
    Instant pudding. Instead of slaving over a hot stove for a few minutes, you can now pour cold milk and with a bit of stirring, instant pudding!

    April 13, 2014

  • Decision to be an organ donor can save lives

    Chelsea Clair watched as her father died waiting for a bone marrow transplant.
    So when she met Kyle Froelich at a car show in 2009 and heard about his struggles to find a kidney that would match his unique needs, she never hesitated to offer hers to the man she just met.

    April 11, 2014

  • Volunteers continue to have priceless impact on community

    Chances are, you know someone who volunteers. Perhaps you’re a volunteer yourself.
    Marion County is full of volunteers.
    They read to our youth.
    They assist nonprofit agencies.
    They serve on boards and committees.
    And in 2013, they spent a day picking up nearly 10 tons of garbage that had been tossed out on public property around Marion County.

    April 10, 2014

  • Proposed school calendar lives up to letter and spirit of law

    West Virginia state law requires that students be in a classroom for 180 days.

    April 9, 2014

  • Strong Fairmont General Hospital badly needed to serve our region

    Mere minutes often matter when it comes to emergency health care.
    That’s why we need a strong Fairmont General Hospital.
    When patients need the services of health-care professionals, having family and friends close at hand is often essential, and their presence may even lead to a better outcome.

    April 6, 2014

  • COLUMN: Fairmont General Hospital vital part of community

    There’s nothing better than holding a newborn baby. It gives you a little feeling that not only is everything right in the world, but this perfect little human represents hope of a future where things will be better than they are today.
    I had that blessed opportunity to hold that hopeful future in my arms last week when I visited my dear friend Jen and her newborn son Tristan at Fairmont General Hospital.

    April 6, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Politics
House Ads