Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ky. panel OKs prescription-for-pseudoephedrine-pills bill in face of drug makers' radio ad campaign

In the face of a strong lobbying effort by makers of over-the-counter cold medicines, a Kentucky legislative committee narrowly approved a bill that would require a prescription for most products with pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient used to make methamphetamine.

The bill, approved 6-5 by the Senate Judiciary Committee, is sponsored by Senate Majority Floor Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, but he said he isn't sure of its chances in the full Senate, reports Jack Brammer of the Lexington Herald-Leader. A similar bill got out of committee last year but never came to a vote on the Senate floor because it lacked the votes to pass. This year's version would not apply to gelcaps, which are more difficult to use in meth making.

The Kentucky State Police recorded about 1,200 meth labs last year, and former meth addict Melanda Adams told the committee she believed the bill would "cut the burgeoning number of dangerous home-made meth labs in the state." The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, a lobby for the over-the-counter medicine industry, contends requiring a prescription would "create a hardship for legitimate consumers," reports Jessie Halladay of The Courier-Journal.

Only Oregon and Mississippi have passed such laws, so Kentucky has become a firewall for the drug makers' lobby, which has bought many radio commercials urging people to contact senators in opposition to the bill, contending it would "punish Kentucky families" and pushing an alternative measure that would bar people convicted of meth making from buying the medicines. Opponents of that bill say meth makers would continue to use surrogates to buy the medicines for them, and at today's hearing one called the radio ads "scare tactics."

As of Feb. 3, the drug makers' lobby had spent more than $82,000 running ads on Louisville, Lexington and Somerset radio stations owned by Clear Channel Communications Inc., the nation's largest radio operator, according to public-inspection files at those stations. In 2011, CHPA paid the Kentucky Association of Radio and Television more than $93,000 to run ads, according to public-inspection files from Cummulus Broadcasting, another major owner of stations in Kentucky.

The commercials have been running uncontested for two months, but this week a group headed by Knox and Laurel County's Commonwealth's Attorney Jackie Steele, Real Facts About Meth, offered a counter-ad, describing the impact of meth on communities. The group does not appear to be well funded; its website solicits contributions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It seems we’re always fighting the government just to maintain basic freedoms. Here we go again. Now we have a bi-partisan effort to restrict cold tablet sales to law abiding citizens in an effort to thwart meth labs.
Senator Majority Floor Leader Stivers (R-Manchester), Senator Jensen (R-London), Senator Jones (D-Pikeville), Senator Pendleton (D-Hopkinsville) and Senator Turner (D-Prestonsburg) have introduced SB 50. It’ll mandate going to the doctor to get cold tablets. “The Fab 5” believe this will save the state money and solve our meth problems.
Excellent! A bi-partisan effort to save Kentucky from its meth problem and save the state some money. We applaud those efforts.
From Kentucky’s fiscal note “Although the exact amount of savings cannot be determined, the information reviewed above indicates that a conservative estimate of savings would be in the $12 to $20 million range.” Millions saved, perfect!
But let’s examine the facts behind “solving the meth problem” and its impact on us, the law abiding citizens of Kentucky.
First, according to the U.S. Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center’s 2010 threat assessment, Mexico is once again the “primary source of methamphetamine” in the U.S. That’s after Mexico banned the sale of all pseudoephedrine (PSE) in 2008. So a complete ban of PSE in Mexico produced the #1 threat of meth in the U.S. within two years. Hmmm. Seems like the drug manufacturers are resilient.
Well that’s Mexico, what about Kentucky? In order to get around the restrictions on PSE sales, a new method to manufacture meth has been developed. There is no new chemistry here; in fact, most of it is almost 100 years old. Sounds a Senate bill can’t defeat a resourceful and knowledgeable illegal drug manufacturer.
Certainly with the state saving millions, the Fab 5’s good intentions are worth something. But let’s look at the new costs to Kentuckian’s. Instead of going to the corner pharmacy and buying $10 worth of cold tablets, you’ll have to go to the doctor.
The new system will be to call your Doctor and make a priority appointment. Go to the appointment, lose 2 hours of work ($15/hr. = $30), pay a visit co-pay of $20 (insurance pays the balance of $150), drop off the prescription at pharmacy, and go back to work. After work pick up prescription, pay $5 co-pay (insurance picks up the now $15 balance) go home and take the medication. Total projected cost is $220. That’s a $210 premium!
$210 multiplied by Kentucky’s estimate of 1.3 million packages sold per year and you get $273,000,000. That’s over a quarter of a billion dollar “bi-partisan” cost shift.
By the way, Kentucky closes its fiscal note by saying “Lastly, since this measure requires a prescription for cold medicine it is assumed that this could have some indeterminable impact on insurance utilizations (office visits and prescriptions). This impact is indeterminable but most likely very minor in the overall cost of healthcare.” Indeterminable? Very minor?
So let’s add this up. Mexico is the #1 meth manufacturer. New manufacturing methods are getting around cold tablet bans. Kentuckians will absorb over a quarter of a billion dollars to save Kentucky a maximum of $20 million. Only the Fab 5 would call SB50 good. “Government logic?”
It’s not the medicine, it how it’s being misused. Duh.
Call you representatives at 800-372-7181 and tell them to leave us alone, we don’t want to pay the Fab 5’s quarter billion dollar vanity premium to solve the misuse of a legal drug.