CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The battle over whether West Virginians should be required to obtain a doctor’s prescription for some cold medicines will shift to the House of Delegates after the Senate approved the bill Tuesday.
In a 25-9 vote Senators approved the bill to make pseudoephedrine products prescription-only, a move advocates claim would reduce meth labs that have been busted in 45 of the state’s 55 counties in the last year.
Sen. Judiciary Committee Chairman Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, said two things have changed since the Senate first debated the proposal two years ago. He said there are now tamper-resistant medicines now available for residents to battle colds and allergies and meth labs are more widespread.
“They’ve gone from 229 (meth labs) that were found in 2011 to 288 in 2012 to 533 last year,” Palumbo said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “Meth has become such a scourge in our society, such a pervasive problem that reaches all corners of the state, this is the action we need to take to eradicate these labs. It’s the best we can do.”
West Virginia Retailers Association President Bridgett Lambert, whose group has joined the drug lobby in opposing the bill, said she’s not surprised the bill passed the Senate, where leadership favored the bill. Lambert said the opposition will continue to express its concerns in the House.
“There’s over 100,000 users of pseudoephedrine in West Virginia and all of those families will be impacted by this legislation,” she said. “The 400 meth labs, that’s kind of a small number.”
West Virginia would only be the third state to require prescriptions for products like Sudafed, Claritin D and some Advil products if the bill gains approval in the House and is signed into law by the governor.
Senate President Jeff Kessler, appearing Tuesday on MetroNews “Talkline,” said state residents won’t be overly inconvenienced by the new law.
“It’s calling your doctor every year and he’ll call you in a prescription and you’ve got it. Just like they call in my high blood pressure medicine every year without me walking in and seeing the doctor every time he has to refill my prescription,” Kessler said.
The Senate amended the bill slightly Tuesday, creating an opportunity for a criminal record to be expunged after one conviction of possessing the prescription only products. Sen. Dave Sypolt (R-Preston) had expressed concern it’s possible such a conviction could keep a West Virginian from getting a gun permit.