Should cold remedies containing pseudoephedrine require a note from your doctor?
A Missouri house committee heard testimony Wednesday on why that could be the final answer to the problem of methamphetamine.
You can't make meth without pseudoephedrine.
Years ago, lawmakers ordered pseudoephrine cold medications behind the retail counter, then behind the pharmacy counter. Next came restrictions on the amount purchased, and records of the buyer.
This year is the first in Missouri for an electronic data tracking system the sale of pseudoephedrine products.
"It's not worked on one place where they've tried it yet. It's an investigative tool, Cape Girardeau County Sheriff John Jordan said. That's it. It doesn't stop it."
That's because meth cooks now engage in a tactic known as "smurfing."
"We have created a new criminal element that does nothing but pill shop. Six or seven of us can get into a car, drive down to Walgreens or any pharmacy in Jefferson City and buy our legal allotment of pseudoephedrine, MHP Superintendent Col. Ron Replogle said. Sign the log, show our id,and we can go back and cook meth."
Replogle said meth cooks even recruit homeless people to buy pseudoephrine for them.
So some lawmakers want to take the next step.
"If enacted, this bill would require that medications containing pseudoephedrine as an active ingredient be available by prescription only, (R) Sullivan Rep. Dave Schatz said.
Both Mississippi and Oregon have prescription laws and claim meth production has fallen dramatically.
"There was no public outcry after we passed this bill. There was a lot of manufactured public outcry as we were trying to pass the bill," Oregon District Attorney Rob Bovett said.
Still, the pharmaceutical industry warns of a backlash from legitimate consumers, and some legislative critics said requiring a prescription ultimately will punish only low-income people with nasal congestion.
"At the end of the day, I gotta ask myself, do I wanna cut off access to healthcare for my constituents?" (D) St. Louis Rep. Mike Colona said.
The committee took no vote on the bill Wednesday.