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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Here We Go Again: Revised Meth Bill To Limit Purchases Of Cold Medicines Introduced.

Revised anti-meth bill would limit purchases of some cold medicines
By Jack Brammer and Bill Estep

FRANKFORT — Kentuckians could buy far less of most cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine without a prescription under a revised anti-methamphetamine bill introduced Tuesday in the state Senate.

Under Senate Bill 3, someone could buy as much as 3.6 grams of pseudoephedrine a month, or 15 grams a year. A generic box of pseudoephedrine with 48 pills that each have a 30 milligram dosage contains 1.44 grams of the medicine.

Anything above those limits would require a prescription for the drug, which is a key ingredient in meth. Gel caps would be excluded from the limit, since it is much more difficult to convert that form of the medicine to meth.

Also, people with a drug-related conviction could not buy cold medicines for five years.

The sponsor of the bill, Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the legislation is an alternative to a measure he withdrew last week. Senate Bill 50 would have required a prescription for most cold medicines.

Stivers said electronic monitoring already is in place to keep track of cold medicine purchases.

The revised bill met immediate opposition from the makers of remedies containing pseudoephedrine.

Elizabeth Funderburk, senior director of communications for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, said in an email that her group "continues to oppose burdensome restrictions to over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines that thousands of law-abiding Kentuckians rely upon for relief."

"For many families who suffer from colds and allergies, the restrictions proposed would significantly impact those who need the medication most," Funderburk said.

The industry also strongly opposed requiring a prescription for the products, which reportedly generate billions of dollars in sales annually in the United States. It argued that there are less intrusive ways to attack the problem.

For most of this year's law-making session, the industry has waged a statewide radio and Internet ad campaign against the legislation, urging the public to tell legislators to vote against SB 50.

Stivers said he did not intentionally renumber his anti-meth bill to SB 3 to frustrate the industry's advertising effort.

The association reported spending $194,957 in January on its lobbying effort, which included a phone bank and Web site. That was far more than any other group spent to lobby lawmakers.

The Senate Judiciary Committee may consider the new bill on Thursday and the entire Senate may vote on it this week, Stivers said.

He said the measure is modeled on legislation being considered in West Virginia.

Stivers said his revised bill "will do one of two things. It will either shut down the quantity and amount of product needed or you will see a surge in individual purchases, which would be easily tracked."

Tommy Loving, executive director of the Kentucky Narcotic Officers' Association, said the proposal for a lower limit on the amount of pseudoephedrine people can buy is a step in the right direction.

The measure won't be as effective at cutting the number of dangerous homemade meth labs in Kentucky as requiring a prescription, but the political reality is that Stivers' new proposal has a better chance of winning passage, Loving said.

Loving said he thinks the bill initially will drive down the number of meth labs in the state because it will take meth cooks some time to respond to the lower limit on pseudoephedrine sales, he said.

The concern, however, is that the cooks will eventually regroup and recruit additional people to buy their limit of allergy pills and turn them over to be made into meth, authorities said.

The same scenario played out after a 2005 change in state law to restrict access to pseudoephedrine.

The number of meth-lab incidents in Kentucky dropped significantly from 2006 to 2007, but then started back up and has risen every year since, according to state police.

Loving said another concern is that people will be use false identification to buy pseudoephedrine.

Jackie Steele, commonwealth's attorney for Laurel and Knox counties, agreed that the lower limits on pseudoephedrine sales will likely drive down the number of meth labs in the short term, but doesn't think that would last.

The new limits could drive up the black-market price of a box of cold medicine, tempting more people to get involved in buying it to sell to meth producers, Steele said.

"I hope this cures it," Steele said of the meth-lab problem. "I don't think it will."

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Blogger Alice Smith said...

Nice piece of info about prescription of cold medicines.

1:32 AM  

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