The resurgence of meth labs nationwide is spurring some lawmakers to try to enact laws in their state that would make medicines containing pseudoephedrine, like those found in Sudafed, only available to those who have a prescription.
Oregon did just that in 2006, when Governor Ted Kulongoski signed legislation- HB 2485 – in to law. The law-of-the-land in Oregon required the Oregon Board of Pharmacy to move all pseudoephedrine products to Schedule III (prescription only) on or before July 1, 2006. Since then, cold, allergy, and sinus medications containing pseudoephedrine can only be obtained in Oregon with a doctor’s prescription.
Other states, who are experiencing the growth of meth labs however, are wondering if following Oregon’s lead is the answer to their meth lab problem too.
Senator Wright of California has authored a bill – SB484 - that would require consumers to have a prescription to buy medicines containing pseudoephedrine. If SB 484 gets final approval in California, the purchase of cold, sinus, and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine will require a doctor’s prescription for pseudoephedrine containing products, just like it does in Oregon and Mississippi. Obtaining pseudoephedrine products without a prescription would result in an “infraction or a misdemeanor”. Supporters of the bill say that the measure will drastically cut down the ability of meth lab cooks to get pseudoephedrine and that, in turn, will eliminate the number of meth labs in California neighborhoods.
Effect on poor and financially struggling families:
Opponents of the bill argue that making pseudoephedrine containing products “prescription only” drugs may help minimize the meth lab problem in California, but it will also hurt poor and struggling families. Some predict that a bottle of nose spray that now costs $4 is likely to sell for $40 or $50 a bottle or more, once it’s turned in to a prescription drug, making it unaffordable for those without prescription insurance or those with high co-pays for prescription drugs. They say the cost of the drug is just the part of the problem. The cost of taking a day off from work and the cost of a doctor’s appointment will also make it extremely difficult for financially struggling families and the poor to buy the products that help give them and their children the most relief from their cold, allergy, and sinus problems.
Some say that turning medicines containing pseudoephedrine in to prescription drugs will ultimately be paid by poor, non-meth-making families. Maybe a better prescription for the problem would be doing something more to help those addicted to meth to quit?
Effect on the state’s prison systems:
Other opponents of the law say that re-classifying pseudoephedrine as a prescription drug would create an expense that would ultimately fall on the budgets of its cities, towns, and the state of California. The change in the law would make having pseudoephedrine without a prescription a felony, meaning more people could be given prison sentences, which is the last thing California prisons’ need. The prisons in California are already overcrowded. According to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) they are already housing 170,000 inmates and 15,000 of those inmates are being kept in gyms and dayrooms. They don’t have anywhere else to put them. Twenty years ago, the state was housing just over 70,000 inmates in California prisons. Over the last 20 years, the inmate population has grown by 4% every year.
Currently, the law in California punishes any retailer who does not follow state guidelines regarding the sale of ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, norpseudoephedrine or phenylpropanolamine.
No more than 3 packages of pseudoephedrine may be sold to any one individual in a single transaction or more than 9 grams of ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, norpseudoephedrine or phenylpropanolamine.
- A first violation of these restrictions is a misdemeanor, punishable by a jail term of up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
- A second or subsequent violation is a misdemeanor, punishable by a jail term of up to one year, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. (Health & Saf. Code 11100, subd. (g).)
The federal government also has rules about the sale of pseudoephedrine products, which include:
No more than 3.6 grams may be sold to an individual in a single transaction.
No more than 7.5 grams may be sold to a single customer in a one-month period.
Seller must maintain a written or electronic logbook of each sale, including the date of the transaction, the name and address of the purchaser and the quantity sold. The seller must maintain these documents, as specified by law.
Consumers are currently mandated by the federal government to adhere to play by the rules too.
The purchaser must present valid identification, as specified, and the seller must verify the identification.
The purchaser must sign a paper or electronic logbook, as specified.
Tracking the sale of pseudoephedrine by paper log books
Here is an example of a paper log that may be used by a retailer. Some retailers have moved beyond paper logs to electronic ones, which helps them see at a glance who has been buying what, where, and how much they’re purchased.
NOTE: This post was originally published on June 7, 2009. Updated Jan. 13, 2011.
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