Pseudoephedrine bill too costly, wrong way to approach meth problem, critics say

01/27/2011 05:51 PM

(WITH VIDEO) LOUISVILLE — Business and medical representatives and a former lieutenant governor are speaking out against a bill that would require pseudoephedrine to be provided only through prescription, saying the current system is more effective and costs less.

Pseudoephedrine, which is used in cold and decongestion medicine, is a key ingredient for concocting the addictive drug methamphetamine. Legislation to put pseudoephedrine behind the counters in pharmacies has been proposed in both the state House and Senate.

But a coalition including the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce a pharmacist and a former president of the Kentucky Medical Association said they were concerned that one of the consequences of that legislation would be slowing down tracking of drug purchases. The purchases are currently tracked through the MethCheck process, approved as part of legislation pushed by former Lt. Gov. Steve Pence while he was Justice Cabinet Secretary in 2005.

Putting those medicines behind the counter would shift the tracking from MethCheck to the slower KASPER system. Doing so would slow down law enforcement trying to break up meth labs, said Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain.

Plus, prescription pill abuse is more of a problem than meth use, Cain said. And making pseudoephredrine available only by prescription would compound that problem, he said.

But the proposed pseudoephedrine legislation have some big-name supporters, including U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, a Republican representing the 5th District in Eastern Kentucky. Rogers, who helped found the anti-drug Operation UNITE, is scheduled to testify on behalf of the bill next Thursday. He and others have pointed to other states, such as Oregon, that have seen a decrease in meth labs afterward implementing similar legislation.

“The methods of the past are clearly not working. Law enforcement officials discovered more than 1,000 meth lab sites in Kentucky last year,” Rogers said in a statement. “We don’t want to continue finding more meth labs, we want to drastically reduce the manufacturing of meth.”

State Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville and the House Judiciary Chairman, talked about the legislation in his interview on Pure Politics last fall.

But Pence, a fellow Republican, said there was misinformation about such legislation. And after Kentucky implemented MethCheck, the state saw an immediate decrease in meth labs until people found a way around the system, he said.

Opponents of the bill also noted increased medical costs that could arise from making the ingredient a prescription. They said it would cost families more to go to the doctor just to be prescribed medicine for the common cold, Dr. Donald Neel, a Owensboro physcian said.

Additionally, opponents of the bills say an expansion of MethCheck, which provides instant information on how much pseudoephedrine a person has bought, would better serve law enforcement. And they appaulded the supporters of the bills for attempting to solve Kentucky’s meth problem.

But the General Assembly should slow down and evaluate the options instead of pushing the bills through, Pence said.

-Reporting and videos by Kenny Colston


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.