Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Editorials

October 20, 2011

‘Sudafed bill’ — Proposed legislation unnecessary

The effort underway by some lawmakers to resurrect the so-called “Sudafed bill” in the 2012 session of the West Virginia Legislature is unnecessary.

The new plan, as currently proposed, would place some 15 common cold and allergy medications on a prescription-only basis — creating an undue hardship on residents suffering from seasonal allergies or a cold. The plan would also jack up health care costs and impose a greater burden on the business community, according to the West Virginia Retailers Association.

Supporters of the “Sudafed bill” movement argue tougher legislation is necessary in order to keep pseudoephedrine products from falling into the wrong hands, more specifically criminals who cook up illegal meth. An attempt by lawmakers to pass the tougher measure died in a rare tie vote in the Senate last year.

While we clearly understand the dangers presented by methamphetamine labs, the legislation proposed for the 2012 session is an example of overregulation. The new rules passed in 2006 are working. We don’t need another law tackling the same topic.

West Virginia has already reduced meth labs by 75 percent in the last five years, or since legislation was passed in 2006 that removed medications that contain the key ingredient, pseudoephedrine, from an over-the-counter status, Bridget Lambert, president of the West Virginia Retailers Association, told the Register-Herald in Beckley.

Data from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency’s website supports Lambert’s argument. Seven years ago, the DEA reported 171 meth incidents in this state, including labs dump sites and equipment.

The number increased to 216 in 2005, but dropped to 86 in 2006 when the new law become effective. There were 42 meth incidents reported in 2007, 50 in 2008, 52 in 2009 and 44 last year.

Under the rules passed in 2006, a consumer must 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.

“It can be reported once a week, or once a month, but they do report it on a regular basis,” Lambert said.

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 limits.

Lambert says the prescription-only status would also raise health care and business costs for consumers and employers alike.

We agree. 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.

The new regulations passed in 2006 are working. Any effort to further regulate the purchase of pseudoephedrine products is an example of unnecessary overregulation.

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