Some fighting for stronger provisions in meth bill
CHARLESTON — Backers of a bill mandating a prescription for the purchase of most medications containing pseudoephedrine were working to reinstate that requirement Wednesday after a legislative committee removed the provision the day before.
Del. Don Perdue, D-Wayne, and others on Wednesday had pending floor amendments after the House Judiciary Committee had stripped Senate Bill 6, also known as the Methamphetamine Laboratory Eradication Act, of the prescription requirement before moving the bill out of committee late Tuesday night. Pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient in the making of meth.
The controversial bill passed the Senate, 25-9, on Feb. 18.
Perdue, a retired pharmacist, has said that it is his belief that the majority of medicines containing pseudoephedrine are being sold to people who are converting it to meth, and that pharmaceutical companies continue to push products that they know are being used to make a dangerous, harmful, illicit drug.
Senate Bill 6 will go in front of the full House of Delegates for first reading Thursday, March 6.
The heart of the debate revolves around whether requiring a prescription for current over-the-counter cold and flu medications that contain pseudoephedrine, ephedrine or phenylpropanolamine — all ingredients used in making meth — would slow the rising meth problem in West Virginia, or if it simply punishes law-abiding citizens by requiring them to see a doctor to get those medications.
Del. Kelli Sobonya, R-Cabell, a member of the Judiciary Committee, has long been opposed to requiring a prescription for what are now over-the-counter medications.
The amended bill only requires a prescription if the person purchasing the medication has a prior criminal record.
"It got rid of the prescription requirement for everyone, which alleviated my concern of law-abiding people having to pay for a doctor's visit," Sobonya said.
The amendment did cut the grams of medications containing meth-making ingredients that a person could buy in a year's time from 48 grams per year to 24, and would create a meth-offender database in West Virginia.
The bill is a long way from being home free, with three readings coming up and floor amendments looming. Were the amended version to pass, it would still have to go back to the Senate for consideration, since the original bill has been changed.
All of that has to be accomplished by midnight Saturday, before the Legislature adjourns. The bill could always go to a conference committee if legislators run out of time, though that is something Sobonya said she believes most lawmakers will try to avoid.
Kenova Mayor and pharmacist Ric Griffith said he sees both sides of the issue.
"I have given it considerable thought," he said. "Those people who are not abusing a helpful medication are being inconvenienced to prevent the tragedies that happen with those who do abuse it.
"I can see the Legislature's struggle with it, because there isn't a clear-cut answer."
Griffith did say that behind the pharmacy counter one could almost play a "carnival game" guessing who is obtaining the medications for a legitimate purpose and who is not.
"I feel like I can pick out the people who are coming through the door who aren't using this for a cold," Griffith said. "It's a certain age group, a certain look ... maybe that's profiling."
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