Missouri Bill Would Mandate OTC to Rx Switch for Cold Meds

Feb 19, 2009

By George Anderson

If passed, a bill proposed
by law makers in Missouri would require consumers to have a doctor’s
prescription in order to obtain medicines containing pseudoephedrine.
The aim of the bill is to severely curtail production of methamphetamine,
which is made with the ingredient.

A similar
bill passed in Oregon in 2006 has nearly eliminated meth labs
in that state, according to officials who spoke with The Associated
, because it eliminated the practice of
"group smurfing" where individuals go
out and buy restricted quantities of cold meds and combine their purchases
to manufacture the illegal drug.

Current Missouri
law allows individuals to purchase products containing up to nine grams
of pseudoephedrine every 30 days. Law enforcement officials in the state
say criminals regularly circumvent the existing system. The state leads
the nation in meth lab arrests. There were nearly
1,500 busts made in the state last year, according to the Missouri State
Highway Patrol.

The proposed
legislation, SB160 and HB623, has its critics, including physician groups
that say it would lead to increased waiting times at doctors’
offices and drive up the cost of medical care for patients.

Fitzwater, executive director of the Missouri Pharmacy Association, said
a new system authorized by state lawmakers last year that would enable
tracking in real time should be given more time before new legislation
is considered.

think that is still the best option," Mr. Fitzwater told the AP. "It
continues to keep legitimate products available for legitimate patients."

Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart, who sponsored the bill in the House,
said, the prescription requirement would prevent the state from "dumping
money into a database that we don’t know will work."

enforcement officials believe the hassle associated with obtaining a prescription
is being overplayed since there are many other products on the market that
treat cold symptoms but do not contain pseudoephedrine.

are talking about one drug that does nothing more than stop a runny nose,"
said Franklin County Deputy Sheriff Jason Grellner.

Discussion Question:
Does the proposed bill requiring a prescription for medicines containing
pseudoephedrine in Missouri make sense and should retailers and manufacturers
be getting behind it there and in other states?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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8 Comments on "Missouri Bill Would Mandate OTC to Rx Switch for Cold Meds"

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Susan Rider
Susan Rider
13 years 3 months ago

Scary! Because some criminals do the wrong thing, everyone is punished. Calling the doctor for cold meds won’t work, because they will say, come in let me see you. Voila! Another office visit charge. Why not use this database as a way to catch offenders instead of punishing the people that are sick?

Bill Bittner
Bill Bittner
13 years 3 months ago
This whole issue is much bigger than whether someone needs a prescription in order to buy a drug. It is obvious to me (an ex-smoker and a beer drinker) that the attempt to control drug use through interdiction has failed. Between the drug cartels in Mexico and the meth labs in the USA (not to mention the ongoing cigarette sales), it is obvious that demand has not declined. Instead of society continuing to bear the huge cost of border fences, police forces, and helicopters, we should turn the table on this whole thing and let the government profit by taxing the drugs. No one starts out life saying “I want to grow up to be a toothless drug addict.” Yet that is what happens to some people. I don’t understand why, I don’t think anyone really understands it. But instead of buying police more toys and paying them overtime to stake out drug dealers we should collect taxes and use the money to figure out why people go down this path in the first place.… Read more »
Michael Murphy, Ph.D.
Michael Murphy, Ph.D.
13 years 3 months ago

This drug destroys lives. And the ease with which the active ingredients can be obtained is directly related to stronger formulae available on the street. And stronger formulae are correlated with quicker, more enduring addiction and more damage to human capital, more crime, and more cost to society as a whole. With strong, pure meth, addiction can be experienced after a single use. One poor choice by your child, partner, sibling, or friend can result in years of problems.

I’d prefer to endure a little embarrassment at the pharmacy than to pay these potential larger costs. And if moving these OTC products to Rx products means fewer dangerous drugs on the street, then let’s do it.

Gene Detroyer
13 years 3 months ago

The systems are already in place to Rx these drugs. The hurdle of course is getting the doctor involved. OTCs like these products have already been determined to not need a physician’s monitoring. What we are really doing is getting the physician involved in law enforcement and adding the cost of law enforcement to the cost of healthcare. That strikes me as an unacceptable alternative.

In this case, the physicians add nothing more than a pharmacist could. The answer is permitting the pharmacist to write the “prescription” and dispense through the retailer’s system.

Could I go to multiple retailers to get multiple prescriptions? Yes. But, I can also go to multiple doctors and get multiple prescriptions. There will be weaknesses in any effort, but the objective can be equally accomplished by having the pharmacist write the prescription versus the physician.

Nikki Baird
Nikki Baird
13 years 3 months ago
So I only have a “personal experience” response to this one. I deal with the hassle of buying behind the counter pseudoephedrine because I don’t think the alternatives work nearly as well. But the process frankly makes me feel like a criminal, and if the whole family gets sick, WE have to do “smurfing” because the amount you can get (at least in Colorado) is so limited that one family member can’t get enough for the whole family. So I’m torn. The idea of having to call my doctor just to get a decongestant–not because the product needs to be controlled for my safety and health but because of its potential for illegal use by others–feels ridiculous. On the other hand, outside of the silly extra step of getting my doctor to call it in (assuming they’re not going to require an office visit to get this Rx), this could actually make it less hassle at the register. Is pseudoephedrine really the weakest link in the meth supply chain? Why aren’t we going after the… Read more »
George Anderson
George Anderson
13 years 3 months ago

Apparently the approach has pretty much put meth labs out of business in Oregon. Not something to be dismissed particularly if you’ve seen someone destroy their life with that poison. A law like this would be a boon for locations with in-store clinics. Have a cold, see a nurse practitioner and pick up your medicine with prescription all in one trip.

Mark Lilien
13 years 3 months ago

Mandatory prescription for pseudoephedrine? Yeah that stops meth labs. And Prohibition stopped liquor. And marijuana laws stop weed. And narcotic laws stopped freebasing. Just pass a law and you can stop crime cold!

Ed Dennis
Ed Dennis
13 years 3 months ago

Isn’t the definition of STUPIDITY when you continue to do the same thing and expect different results? It has been our failure as a nation to expect “enforcement” actions to stop illegal trade. We have seen, time and time again, extensive efforts by law enforcement to stop the sale of illegal alcohol, drugs, prostitution, etc. While arrests are made, the illegal activity continues. It continues because it is highly profitable. As long as there is money in it, criminals will find a way.

Why do we tolerate this? Anyone with any sense knows that the only way to efficiently stop these activities is to reduce the profit potential. As long as there is money in it, putting it behind a counter or requiring a prescription will do little to curtail the production of illegal drugs. In fact, it might have “unintended” consequences. Have the legislators considered that their actions might endanger pharmacists and other employees in drug stores?


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