Restrictions on medication purchases work, but new proposal affects the law-abiding
The Capital-Journal Editorial Board
Published Monday, March 24, 2008
When it comes to helping authorities fight methamphetamine, Kansans are willing to make reasonable sacrifices.
They proved it once, when lawmakers wisely adopted limits on purchases of over-the-counter cold medications used to make meth.
Soon, they may be asked to go a couple of steps further — and closer to the line of what's reasonable.
Under a proposal skimming through the Legislature, Kansans would be required to obtain a prescription for several popular cold medicines such as Sudafed and Actifed. Those medicines and others covered under the bill contain pseudoephedrine, an ingredient used by meth manufacturers.
The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka, calls for a nine-member task force to study the idea and establish a prescription monitoring program. The task force study would begin this summer.
Schmidt's bill has been a hit in the Statehouse, where it breezed through the Senate on a 40-0 vote and is scheduled to be considered today by the House Health and Human Services Committee.
Proponents say the previous restrictions on cold medicines got results, and they're right.
Meth lab seizures plummeted in Kansas after those medicines were taken off the shelves and placed behind pharmacy counters. Today, buyers must sign a log and show identification to buy the drugs.
Thanks in no small part to the restrictions, meth lab seizures in Kansas dropped from 130 in 2005 to 42 last year , according to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation's Web site.
So why impose further restrictions?
Supporters of the plan say the current limitations haven't stopped meth makers from obtaining large amounts of pseudoephedrine tablets. These days, they're apparently just doing it by going from pharmacy to pharmacy.
And while the number of seizures is down, supporters of the plan say meth labs still pose a significant public health risk — and not only for those who operate them. The chemicals used to make the drug are flammable and toxic. Cleanup of lab sites is expensive.
We'll certainly grant proponents all of that. We also realize meth is a wickedly destructive drug. By now, many of us have seen photos showing the horrifying physical effects of chronic meth abuse — tooth decay, emaciation, cuts and infections brought on by nervous picking of the skin, etc.
But if and when the task force begins its work, we hope they balance the effects of the proposal on meth manufacturers with the burden it will create for consumers in obtaining drugs for legitimate purposes. For many Kansans, getting a prescription means taking time off of work and facing a co-payment.
That seems like a long way to go to obtain medications once available over the counter.
We also think it's worth noting that law enforcement authorities say restrictions on the availability of pseudoephedrine haven't stopped the supply of meth.
The decline in production from domestic labs was replaced by supplies from foreign manufacturers.
We applaud lawmakers for continuing to look for ways to fight meth.
But in discussing the proposal, we'd urge them to focus not only on illegal drug manufacturers but on law-abiding Kansans, too.
Klaatu note: interesting comment's section following the article in the Capital-Journal http://cjonline.com/stories/032408/opi_261006816.shtml