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Lawmakers take another look at Pseudoephedrine

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The West Virginia Senate is taking steps to try to require a prescription for the use of pseudoephedrine, and while some say it's a step too far, others say it's still not enough.

The Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources discussed Senate Bill 6 Feb. 4.

The measure would regulate the sale of drug products commonly used in the manufacture of methamphetamine and would essentially require a prescription for pseudoephedrine.

The issue has been discussed on the heels of numbers released by the West Virginia State Police last November that show meth labs continue to be a problem throughout Southern West Virginia. 

In the HHR committee meeting, the bill advanced to the Senate Judiciary committee.  However, not everyone is on board with the language of Senate Bill 6. 

Elizabeth Funderburk, senior director with communications and public affairs for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, said while the group commends the committee for taking on serious meth issues, the bill falls short. 

"Senate Bill 6 will create a costly hardship on law-abiding citizens in the form of time off of work, additional trips to the doctor and higher copays at the pharmacy," Funderburk said. "The proposal within Senate Bill 6 also fails to address the underlying sources of West Virginia's meth problem — imported meth and drug addiction."
According to the CHPA, more than 80 percent of meth in America is smuggled from Mexico and West Virginia's greatest drug threat comes from narcotics that already require a doctor's prescription, as evidenced by the fact the state has the highest drug overdose mortality rate in the nation. 

"It is also critical for the public to understand that the bill includes an exemption for certain pseudoephedrine-based products that some claim cannot be diverted into meth," she said. "The Drug Enforcement Administration of the United States has stated that to date, no such products exist in the marketplace. It would be unfair to the thousands of West Virginians who rely on their preferred brand of nonprescription cold and allergy medicines to be made to consume a product as chosen by West Virginia state lawmakers. 

"CHPA will continue to work with legislators on both sides on the aisle to advance solutions to the meth problem that target criminals, not law-abiding citizens." 

Right now, the purpose of the legislation is to keep products determined by the Board of Pharmacy to be in a form that could be used in the manufacture of meth from being sold through an over-the-counter transaction. The bill also would require drug products that can be converted in the manufacturing meth to be sold only by prescription.

Sen. Art Kirkendoll, D-Logan, took issue with making the medicine some senior citizens need prescription only.

"The meth problem is astronomical in costs," he said. "I have a problem when seniors and other people who need this do it right and we put them in a quagmire. It's a weight on society."

Lt. Michael Baylous with the state police said last November the costs of cleaning up the meth labs is heavy, especially in rural areas, and police officers aren't the only people dealing with the deadly hazards of cooking dangerous chemicals. Fire officials called to clean up the hazardous chemicals must be trained firefighters in the appropriate response.

According to the WVSP, about 345 one-pot or "shake and bake" meth labs were found in southern West Virginia in the past year. As of Nov. 17, 2013, almost 500 meth labs were seized in the southern part of the state.

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the number of meth labs seized throughout the country has gone up and down throughout the past several years. 

Lawmakers have been debating the issue for several legislative sessions,and they heard from a physician with the Kanawha County Substance Abuse Task Force during legislative interim committee meetings. 

Dr. Dan Foster, a former senator who now works with the task force, said lawmakers should work to make hydrocodone a Schedule II controlled substance.