The Times West Virginian

Opinion

March 2, 2014

‘Stop Meth, Not Meds’ backed by readers

In West Virginia, there is something referred to as “stop-sale technology” that prevents a person from going to more than one pharmacy to purchase over-the-counter medication that contains the active ingredient pseudoephedrine, a nasal decongestant.

It’s not an issue of stuffy noses that lawmakers were worried about when they created the system. It was the production of methamphetamine, or “meth,” an illegal and highly addictive drug made in clandestine labs.

Pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient in “cooking” meth. We’ve seen an increase in arrests for those involved in meth production in West Virginia just in the past two years, from 229 in 2011 to 533 last year in 45 of the state’s 55 counties.

Lawmakers feared that the system in place just wasn’t strong enough to stop these small labs, many of which employ the “shake-and-bake” method of creating the drugs in a two-liter bottle in smaller quantities.

So a bill passed by the state Senate, 25-9 mostly along party lines, goes to the House, where lawmakers will decide whether to require those who want to purchase items containing pseudoephedrine to have to obtain a prescription from a doctor to do so.

“Meth has become a scourge in our society,” said chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha. following the vote last month “This is the action we need to take to eradicate these labs. It’s imperative we pass a bill like this.”

Not everyone agrees with that. In fact, a powerful lobbying group, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, is asking lawmakers to “Stop Meth, Not Meds.” The groups says “the majority of meth is imported into the United States from outside sources, specifically Mexico” and that the law “would require you to see a doctor before buying popular cold and allergy medicines — costing you time and money.”

Of course, the lobbyists are supported by the makers of Advil Cold & Sinus, Allegra-D, Claritin-D, Mucinex D and Sudafed, so we know where they’re coming from. A busy family with no time to head to the doctor for a prescription or one with a very large co-pay are far less likely to purchase those medications. They’d likely just choose another one without pseudoephedrine as the active ingredient. That’s a direct hit to their pocket.

But you do have to think about that family. Is the stop-sales technology already employed not good enough? Is it really necessary to take this dramatic step?

We’re not so sure, and that’s why we took it to the readers. Whenever there’s an issue with good points on both sides, we take it to our readers who can participate in the debate by voting in our interactive poll found on www.timeswv.com.

Last week, we asked “Do you support a move to make pseudoephedrine products prescription-only to curb the illegal production of street drugs”

And here is what you had to say:

• I think measures in place already are working, like requiring a license to purchase the allergy/cold medicine behind pharmacy counters — 22 percent.

• Yes! Anything to keep that dangerous drug off the street! — 25.88 percent.

• No way. This bill hurts people who need medicine, not people who “cook” meth — 54.12 percent.

I guess our readership buys into the campaign “Stop Meth, Not Meds,” too.

Speaking of regulation, this week let’s talk about whether we need to regulate e-cigarettes, which are growing in popularity as not only a stop-smoking method but a “trendy” accessory for the young. Log on. Vote. Email me or respond online.

Misty Poe

Managing Editor

mpoe@timeswv.com

@MistyPoeTWV

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