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Cold and Allergy Sufferers as Pawns in the Meth War

The "war on drugs" is sometimes fought on unlikely battlefields. This spring, legislators in several states are pushing controversial bills trying to restrict access to Sudafed and other popular decongestants.

Proposals under consideration in Tennessee, Missouri and elsewhere would require a doctor's prescription to obtain Sudafed and other cold-relief products. The fear is that when decongestants containing pseudoephedrine are purchased over the counter, they can too easily be used as ingredients in making methamphetamine.

No one denies that meth is a dangerous drug. But does it really make sense to crack down on cold and allergy sufferers by requiring a prescription for the decongestants they need?

Oregon is one of two states that already require a prescription in order to obtain pseudoephedrine-based products. Mississippi is the other. Oregon officials claim that meth lab seizures are down since the prescription requirement was put in place.

But surely there are less restrictive means for limiting access to pseudoephedrine. For example, instead of potentially criminalizing cold sufferers in search of relief, the state could improve its monitoring of interstate pseudoephedrine sales. This could be done using electronic databases.

Federal law also already requires pharmacies to observe certain restrictions. These include keeping products with pseudoephedrine behind sales counters, setting daily and monthly limits on sales to an individual consumer, and requiring pharmacists to keep sales logs.

If you have questions about Oregon's restrictions on over-the-counter sales of decongestants, contact us for more information.

Source: States Weigh Fighting Meth With Prescriptions," New York Times, 3-28-11

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