Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Editorials

February 19, 2014

‘Sudafed bill:’ House must reject measure

— — Here we go again. Lawmakers in West Virginia have quietly — and with little or no opportunity for public input — advanced a measure that would unfairly punish allergy sufferers across the state.

With little advance warning, the state Senate passed a bill Tuesday by a vote of 25-9 that would make pseudoephedrine products prescription only. Pseudoephedrine is the common ingredient in many cold- and sinus-relief medications sought by allergy sufferers. Unfortunately, it’s also a component of methamphetamine, which is “cooked” in so-called meth labs or in a “shake and bake” method. As a result, lawmakers in the Senate have voted to make pseudoephedrines a Schedule IV prescription drug. The senators did include an exemption for some medicines that can’t easily be converted to meth, the Associated Press reported.

They also voted to allow individuals charged with possession of pseudoephedrine, and who purchased the drug legally in another state (such as Virginia), to go to court and have charges dropped. However, Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, explained this process may be used by a person only once. The measure has now been moved to the House for passage. It should be rejected. And we call upon all area lawmakers, including Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer, Delegate Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, Delegate Clif Moore, D-McDowell, and Delegate Linda Goode Phillips, D-Wyoming, among others, to vote against this poorly-conceived measure.

Is the intent of the proposed law bad? Nope. Meth is a huge problem in the Mountain State. But punishing cold and allergy sufferers is not — and has never been — the answer. Those who suffer from severe allergies shouldn’t be punished and threatened with imprisonment because of the actions of criminals who abuse meth.

These law-abiding allergy sufferers don’t cook meth and are not drug dealers. They simply depend upon pseudoephedrine-based products for relief from severe allergy attacks, and do not want to run to a doctor’s office for a prescription when the sneezing starts.

The prescription-only status would also raise health care and business costs for consumers and employers alike. And not everyone with allergies or a cold is willing or financially able to afford a trip to the doctor.

For some folks, the simplest solution is a trip to the local pharmacy to pick up some cold or allergy medication. Any effort by lawmakers to further regulate the purchase of pseudoephedrine products is an example of unnecessary overregulation — and government trying to control our daily lives. Enough is enough.

A process is already in place regulating pseudoephedrine purchases in West Virginia. Consumers must currently produce valid identification when asking for a product with pseudoephedrine. The information, in return, is recorded and logged at the point of sale in a pharmacy, and subsequently relayed to the state Board of Pharmacy. That information is made available to law enforcement. Police officers can walk into a pharmacy at anytime and review the data.

At the moment, if a consumer makes multiple purchases of items containing pseudoephedrine at different stores owned by a pharmacy chain, the pharmacist is alerted that the person making the purchases has exceeded his or her legal limit.Let’s enforce the existing law and, if need be, make the current monitoring system a “real-time” process. Don’t force allergy sufferers to pay for countless and arguably unnecessary doctor visits in an attempted crackdown on drug dealers.

Let’s remember, oxycodone and many other drugs are prescription only and they continue to be obtained and abused by criminals.

Based upon the passage of the Senate measure, it can be argued that Charleston is now waging a war on allergy and cold sufferers. Ridiculous!

 

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