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Lawmaker to consider prescription only pseudoephedrine

By Grant Hallmark
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY, Ala.–Alabama may be the next state to make pseudoephedrine prescription only. Mississippi and Oregon have passed similar laws, making the methamphetamine ingredient much more difficult to purchase for would be drug designers.

Currently, the drug is considered a schedule V controlled substance. This means it is in the same class of drugs as Robitussin, which is hardly regulated. However, over the past several years, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have been checking and recording a customer’s identification when purchasing the drug. While this prevented people from buying large quantities of the drug in a short period of time, it has not gone far enough. According to the Tulsa World, an Oregon state senator along with three other officials visited several pharmacies and purchased the legal limit of cough medicine containing pseudoephedrine. After an hour of the driving and buying, Sen. Ginny Burdick’s undercover group had enough to make 200 hits of methamphetamine.

In 2005, Sen. Burdick created a law that made the sale of pseudoephedrine prescription-only. The result was almost immediate: “meth lab incidents” (police raids or dumped labs) plummeted. According to the DEA, the number of meth incidents has gone from 467 in 2004 to 9 in 2010. That is a 98% drop over the past 5 years.

Mississippi passed a similar law in 2010and has had an even more profound effect. In the first year of the law’s existence, the number of meth incidents in the state dropped 70%. In Alabama, there is a prescription-only bill that will be introduced to the legislature in February of 2012. While most might think the passage of such a bill would be unimpeded, there are actually entities that would rather see these bills defeated.

In Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, and West Virginia, similar bills were not allowed out of their respective statehouses. After heavy lobbying by pharmaceutical interest groups, these state legislatures turned  down a law that has all but eliminated meth creation within Mississippi and Oregon. Interest groups such as the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) oppose the laws and have successfully prevented similar bills from getting to several gubernatorial desks. Linda A. Suydam, the president of CHPA, had this to say after Mississippi passed their prescription only law, “We are disappointed that the Mississippi Senate chose to overlook consumer sentiment and passed a bill today that will significantly impact how cold and allergy sufferers access some of their medicines.”

Sen. Paul DeMarco, the head of the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee, said that he hasn’t read the bill yet and, “obviously there will be discussions of the pros and cons of the bill during the session.”

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According to an El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) study, Alabama has experienced a 290% increase in meth lab incidents from 2007-2009. Within an epidemic of this proportion, the legislature has an opportunity to implement a cure. It’s yet to be seen whether Montgomery will side with the pharm lobby or the people of Alabama.

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