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A SWAT for requiring over-the-counter prescriptions

Submitted by on Thursday, 17 March 2011 No Comment

As a former speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates was fond of saying, “fat possums travel at night.” That translated roughly to “watch out for legislation trying to sneak through in the waning hours of the session.”

That’s why I was surprised that a bill that would have made Sudafed available by prescription only was really most sincerely dead after the state Senate killed it on a tie vote days before the session ended. Just as someone inevitably will try to amend a ban on abortion into the state budget, I figured the War on Decongestant bill would reappear.

It didn’t, but there’s always next year. Law enforcement is solidly behind the bill, which it says it needs to fight the war against meth, and it had passed the House of Delegates.  Although it was known as the Sudafed bill, it would have gone much further than that. According to The Register-Herald of Beckley, it would have required prescriptions for many other decongestants, including Alavert, Aleve Cold and Sinus D, and Claritin-D, Drixoral, Bronkaid, Zyrtec-D, and Robitussin.

Anyone use any of those? Anyone ever experienced a miserable, stuffy head in the middle of the night and made a run for medication? Sorry, folks. Suffer until the morning, or until you can get a doctor’s appointment, whichever comes first. And be ready to fork over a co-pay, too, which easily could bring the cost of an over-the-counter generic to that of a brand-name prescription.

Ay, but since those medications contain pseudoephedrine, a primary ingredient in methamphetamine, several states are trying to make it more difficult to obtain them in the name of making life harder for druggies. Under federal law, anyone who purchases anything containing pseudoephedrine already must sign a register and is limited as to how much he or she can buy. Apparently that’s not helping much, though.

The irony is, creating prescription non-prescription medications isn’t helping either. Kentucky tried it in 2005, saw the number of meth labs dip the following year though they begin to climb again not long after that. Clearly meth cookers are able to quickly overcome the hitch in the supply chain and find alternate sources of their raw materials.

Sometimes lawmakers remind me of  a parent who vows to “punish you all to make sure I get the right one.” Except in the case of those who back Sudafed bills, the “right” ones are continuing business as usual, while  allergy sufferers face increased cost and inconvenience.

Officials need to Stop Wasting America’s Time – and money – with legislation that punishes the innocent. If you want to implement something that will actually work, give electronic tracking a try. That won’t get you far either – drug dealers are amazingly adept at coming up with alternate ingredients – but at least it won’t inconvenience law-abiding citizens.

Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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