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Friday, February 17, 2012

Kentucky Senate Panel Approves Bill Requiring Prescriptions For Some Cold Medicines. It Is Time For The Whole Senate To Kill It!

Senate panel approves bill requiring prescriptions for some cold medicines
By Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT — After hearing emotional testimony from a former methamphetamine user, the Senate Judiciary Committee narrowly approved a bill Thursday that would require a prescription for most cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine.

Kentuckians still could purchase gel caps that contain pseudoephedrine — a key ingredient needed to make meth — without a prescription. It is more difficult to make meth with pseudoephedrine from a gel cap.

The sponsor of Senate Bill 50, Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said he didn't know the bill's chances in the full Senate. The legislation died in the Senate last year.

The committee vote was 6-5. It came after Melanda Adams, 31, of Clay County told the panel about the horrors of her meth addiction, including substantial weight loss, thinning hair, rotting teeth and "a loss of innocence."

Adams, who said she used pseudoephedrine from cold medicines to make meth, thinks the bill will cut the burgeoning number of meth labs in the state. State police said Kentucky recorded nearly 1,200 meth-lab incidents last year — an increase of more than 100 from the 1,080 in 2010.

Makers of remedies containing pseudoephedrine strongly oppose requiring a prescription for the products, which reportedly generate billions in sales annually in the United States.

The industry argues that requiring a prescription would create a hardship for legitimate consumers and add to health care costs, and that there are less intrusive ways to attack the problem.

"Today's vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee ... was a loss for families and workers who depend on these medicines for immediate relief," the Consumer Healthcare Products Association said in a statement.

The industry has spent big money fighting the bill. In January, the association spent $194,957 on its lobbying effort, according to its report to the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission. That was far more than any other company or group, according to spending reports on the commission Web site.

"The reason the drug companies are spending all this money is as simple as it is clear: to protect their profits from selling to drug dealers," said Karen Kelly, director of the anti-drug task force Operation UNITE.

Supporters of SB 50 argue the measure would drive down the number of meth labs in Kentucky.

There have been dramatic drops in the number of labs in two states — Oregon and Mississippi — that require prescriptions for over-the-counter cold and allergy medications that contain pseudoephedrine, police have told the committee.

Vic Brown, a retired state police lieutenant and deputy director of the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, told the Senate committee Thursday about three small children in Leslie County who suffered chemical burns from meth labs in early 2011.

Jeremy Triplett of the state police crime lab testified that 15 percent of the small, crude labs people use to make meth experience fires or explosions.

Meth "cookers" combine cold and allergy pills with substances such as drain cleaner to create a chemical reaction that converts pseudoephedrine to meth. The committee saw a video about the intensity of a meth fire in a two-liter bottle.

Triplett also said that it was "very difficult" to remove harmful residues from meth labs and that he knew of no other substitute for pseudoephedrine as readily available to make meth.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Tom Jensen, R-London, said it costs about $1,500 to clean up a meth lab.

The most compelling testimony came from Adams, who said she started on drugs at age 11 as an act of rebellion.

Adams said she started using meth at age 20 and used it for four years. She showed the committee a photo of her mug shot when she was arrested on drug charges.

"Look at the eyes in this picture," she said. "They're wild, scary."

After using meth, Adams said, she and other abusers often discarded their home-made labs on the sides of roads and streams and gave no thought to the toxic waste.

Adams said she spent three months in jail, six months in rehabilitation and five years on probation. Committee members praised her courage for speaking Thursday.

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, an opponent of the bill, read two letters from constituents who said that requiring prescriptions for certain cold medications would be unfair to law-abiding citizens.

Schickel voted against the bill. Also voting against it were Sens. Perry Clark, D-Louisville; Jerry Rhoads, D-Madisonville; Dan Seum, R-Louisville; and Katie Stine, R-Southgate.

Voting for the bill were Stivers; Jensen; and Sens. Carroll Gibson, R-Leitchfield; Ray Jones, D-Pike ville; Brandon Smith, R-Hazard; and Robin Webb, D-Grayson.

Jones said opponents of the bill should be ashamed of their "scare tactics" in the media, a reference to a statewide radio and Internet ad campaign against the bill by the trade industry.

Supporters of the bill have set up a group called Real Facts About Meth and started running limited radio ads Thursday.

The ad points to the case of Kayden Branham, also known as Kayden Daniels, a 20-month-old Wayne County boy who died in May 2009 after drinking drain cleaner that police said had been used in making meth.

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Blogger John Rogers said...

There has been much debate recently in the press about whether the General Assembly should AGAIN make ephedrine and pseudo ephedrine a controlled substance available only by prescription in an effort to control the escalating methamphetamine (meth) production in our state. Prior to 1976, ephedrine and pseudo ephedrine could only be sold as a controlled substance by prescription. Bills to return these drugs to prescription status are pending in both the State House and State Senate. I have followed this debate closely.

Folks, this is not even a close call.

As a former felony prosecutor in this Commonwealth, I have seen first hand the effects meth production and its fallout have had on our community. When I first began prosecuting cases in the early to mid-1990’s, we saw the first meth labs begin to appear in our area. Meth use and the labs that are used to create it have increased dramatically since then. The only time meth labs decreased slightly was when the sale of ephedrine and pseudo ephedrine began to be tracked through the pharmacy log law in 2005. But the meth makers soon figured out how to work the system, and in 2008 the number of labs discovered began to increase dramatically again.

Mississippi and Oregon, the two states that have passed legislation similar to this proposed Kentucky legislation to again make ephedrine and pseudo ephedrine a controlled substance, have seen a dramatic drop in the number of meth labs. Mississippi’s law has only been in effect since July, 2010 and they have already seen a 70 percent decline in meth lab incidents. Oregon has dropped from 9 labs a month to fewer than 2. These statistics tell the story.

Let’s turn to the professionals that risk their lives everyday to protect us from the effects of meth and its users, and see what they say. They are on the “front lines” of this war. Over 25 drug task force, law enforcement and public safety agencies in the Commonwealth are in support of this effort. According to the Kentucky State Police, the number of meth labs is not only growing, but that growth is actually accelerating.

Let’s address the inconvenience to the consumer. There are over 130 allergy medications that will NOT be effected by this change in the law. Only 15 cold or allergy products will be affected. In Oregon, there have been hardly any consumer complaints since their law went into effect. Also, neither Oregon nor Mississippi has seen an undue burden on the healthcare system as a result of passage of this law in their states.

We have all seen the repeated news articles in our local papers about this dreadful problem….the lives of families and children ruined because of meth. We have read about the lives lost and the toll this takes on our communities. We see these things and think… what can I do to help change this and make a difference? Well, you can. Call your State Representative and State Senator today and urge them to support this proposed law to help end meth in our Commonwealth. If Oregon and Mississippi can do it, and it worked there, we can too!

1:30 PM  
Blogger KYJurisDoctor said...

I say: if anyone wants to kill themselves with drug abuse, let's NOT stand in their way!

I'm tired of every time some hoodlum does something bad, we PUNISH law abiding citizens instead, just as here by making folks go to a Dr's clinic, pay the EXORBITANT office visit fee, so we can cure the common cold.

What's next, get a prescription for a Whopper, because folks become obese from eating them? And we know the health costs to society because of obesity, don't we?

5:43 PM  

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