A bill (SB 50) requiring a doctor’s prescription for cold and allergy medication containing pseudoephedrine (PSE) – a key ingredient used to manufacture methamphetamine – was withdrawn this week, but the proposal is not likely going away. Additional bills containing the requirement have been filed and will be discussed in the Senate Judiciary Committee as early as next week. While there is talk of a compromise, it is important to continue to urge your legislators to use every alternative available to decrease meth labs before forcing an Rx-only mandate on Kentucky citizens.
Though the Chamber recognizes the urgent need to address Kentucky’s meth lab problem, there is little evidence mandating a prescription for PSE would actually decrease meth labs. Instead, it would penalize the vast majority of more than 500,000 Kentuckians who purchase these medications legally and increase employer health care costs and absenteeism.
Only two states have mandated Rx-only PSE – Oregon and Mississippi. In Oregon, the number of meth labs declined from 467 in 2004 to 12 in 2010, a 90% decrease. However, most of that decline occurred before the Rx-only requirement was implemented in 2006, by which time the number of labs had already fallen to 50. Nearly every other western state experienced a similar decline in labs as Oregon and ten states have experienced at least a 90% reduction since 2003, indicating the Rx-only requirement was not responsible for curbing meth labs.
Mississippi’s Rx-only mandate was just implemented in July 2010, and the number of meth labs from January-November 2011 have declined by 62%. However, during the same time period, Alabama saw an even steeper decrease – 76%. Because meth is increasingly being manufactured in Mexico and smuggled into the U.S., most experts say homegrown meth labs are beginning to decline across the country.
The Chamber offered a number of other solutions to legislators that could be more effective in combating meth, many of which are contained in HB 80 (Yonts) and SB 79 (Rhoads). These bills decrease the amount of drugs that may be purchased and enhance the real-time Meth Check system (NPLEx) by blocking the sale to those who have been convicted of meth-related crimes. In 2011 alone, NPLEx stopped more than 32,000 illegal boxes of PSE from being sold in Kentucky.