The makers and sellers of over-the-counter cold and allergy medications that contain pseudoephedrine are pushing back in West Virginia against those who want a law requiring a prescription for the popular drugs.
Pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient is making methamphetamine, a highly addictive drug that is widely abused in West Virginia.
The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) is releasing a statewide survey today showing that 56 percent of West Virginians oppose such a law. Forty percent support the proposal. The poll was conducted by Mark Blankenship Enterprises and paid for by CHPA.
The poll also shows that 65 percent of West Virginians say it would be somewhat or very inconvenient to have to get a doctor’s prescription in order to buy Claritin D, Advil Cold and Sinus, or other common over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines.
CHPA President and CEO Scott Melville says the poll results are not surprising.
“The West Virginia findings are consistent with what we’ve seen across the country,” Melvin said in a prepared statement. “The clear majority of law-abiding consumers oppose the prescription-only approach because it leads to significant economic burdens produced by unnecessary time off work and additional co-pays.”
The pharmaceutical industry and retailers believe they have the public on their side in this fight. After all, why should you be inconvenienced because of a meth addict? As one person familiar with the survey told me, the issue is a little like gun control; law abiding citizens want to be left alone.
However, the landscape in the meth/pseudoephedrine debate in West Virginia is changing.
Just this month Governor Tomblin’s Advisory Council on Substance Abuse recommended that Tomblin support legislation making pseudoephedrine-based drugs available only by prescription. The task force voted after hearing from Stanford University professor and West Virginia native Keith Humphries, who has studied the meth problem extensively.
“I’m not promising people won’t use meth (if the state passes the law), but it will get rid of the labs,” Humphreys was quoted in the Charleston Gazette as telling the task force.
And it’s the labs that law enforcement and health officials are most concerned about. Police have busted over 460 meth labs this year. The highly toxic and explosive home-crafted labs put innocent children at risk of fumes, fire and explosion. Police must call in special hazmat teams to clean up after a bust.
Not all drug companies and retailers are united with CHPA. A few are making drugs that are more tamper resistant. At least two new decongestant products—Zephrex-D and Nexafed—are manufactured to make it more difficult to extract the pseudoephedrine, a point they include in their marketing.
Meanwhile, Rite Aid and Fluth Pharmacies have stopped selling over-the-counter cold and allergy medicine in their West Virginia stores that can be cooked for meth.
In 2011, the state Legislature came within one vote in the Senate of passing a law requiring a script for pseudoephedrine. We may be looking at another razor close vote on this issue when the 2014 session begins in January.