Group opposes cold meds proposal

PARKERSBURG – A trade association is supporting an alternative to requiring prescriptions for cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Associations supports a block list to prevent the sale of the medicines to those who have been convicted of a drug- or methamphetamine-related offense, said Carlos Gutierrez, director of state government affairs for the association.

“Rather than penalize law-abiding citizens,” he said.

The association is preparing a lobbying effort before the Legislature where several attempts have failed to require the purchase of pseudophedrine containing medicines by doctor’s prescription. The Legislature convenes in January.

Criminals obtain the medicines, legally or illegally, and use it in the manufacture of methamphetamine, a highly addictive drug.

The association recognizes the problem and wants to be part of a solution, Gutierrez said. However, it hasn’t worked in Mississippi and Oregon where prescriptions are required, he said.

Other initiatives supported by the association include the National Precursor Log Exchange, which West Virginia joined this year, intended to stop illegal purchases. The system since January blocked the sale of 16,752 boxes of medicine, Elizabeth Funderburk, senior director of communications and public affairs for the association.

“It has done what it was designed to do,” Gutierrez said.

The system works at the point of sale as soon as the information is entered, he said.

“The electronic system will automatically block them,” Gutierrez said.

Anti-smurfing laws to prevent someone from buying medicines for another also have been effective, Funderburk said. Smurfing enables someone to illegally purchase more than the limit of the medicines.

The makers of the medicines have researched ways to make the medicines that are effective for consumers, but can’t be used to make methamphetamine, Gutierrez said. While there are products that claim that, the Drug Enforcement Agency has said the narcotic can still be made from the new medicines, he said.

Several drug stores have stopped selling medicines that contain pseudoephedrine.

Until the medicines can only be purchased with a prescription, the next best step would be to not sell single-ingredient medications, said Delegate Anna Border, R-Wood, a supporter of legislation to require prescriptions. Her late husband, Larry, whom she succeeded in the House of Delegates, also was a supporter of prescription-only sales.

Extracting the pseudoephedrine from multiple-ingredient medications is more difficult, Border said.

She expects the legislation to be revisited in the next session of the Legislature.

Block lists would prevent sales to those convicted of drug offenses, but would not alleviate smurfing, Border said. Makers would hire someone to make multiple purchases who are not on the list, she said.

“That doesn’t take care of that problem,” Border said.