New Law to Stop Meth
A new law could require Oklahomans to get a prescription before getting pseudoephedrine from a pharmacist.
Supporters say the legislation would be looks similar to one in Oregon which has seen a dramatic decline in the production of methamphetamine
But opponents worry it will just be another law creating a hassle for law abiding citizens suffering from allergies.
Pharmacists at Thrifty Pharmacy in northwest Oklahoma City stay pretty busy getting customers a product to help with congestion during allergy season.
Since 2004, Oklahomans have had to show ID to get any product containing pseudoephedrine.
Back then lawmakers passed legislation to keep the medicine out of the hands of people who would use it to make methamphetamine.
At the time, it was considered the strongest meth law in the country, but since then manufacturers of the illegal drug have found a way around it mostly by getting others to buy the pseudoephedrine for them.
So, lawmakers like State Senator Kim David are considering legislation to make tablet pseudoephedrine only available by prescription.
The Wagoner Republican suffers from allergies herself and understands the inconvenience this might cause.
“When I started looking into the cost of what this problem is costing our local government, our local agencies and also the state of Oklahoma it’s worth it to me to be a little inconvenienced.”
Thrifty Pharmacy owner Dani Lynch opposes the move saying it’s more than just a simple inconvenience.
“Somebody’s going to be calling the doctor at 10:00 at night and then the doctor’s going to be calling me at 10:00 at night to get a prescription for a baby for Sudafed. And everybody’s going to be upset plus the health care dollars spent by the patient going into the office are ridiculous because we’re going to pay a co pay for Sudafed.”
And, she says insurance companies will likely not pick up the cost of that prescription.
The legislation from Senator David is causing concern amongst law-abiding citizens who just need pseudoephedrine for sinus issues.
Tulsa Attorney Clint Parsons has to take pseudoephedrine especially during the spring and fall months when the Oklahoma wind comes sweeping down the plain.
He says waiting to get a prescription isn’t just about the loss of time and money at the doctor’s office.
“A delay of a few hours to get to the pharmacy is painful, but a delay of half a day or more to get a doctor’s appointment to get into the doctor can mean the difference between a simple sinusitis and a full blown sinus infection.”
The proposal to require prescriptions for pseudoephedrine has support from law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma including the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.
Director Darrell Weaver says he understands the hassle for citizens, but they wouldn’t have to visit a doctor every time they need pseudoephedrine.
“You can go up to six times. One time plus five refills, so I believe the pendulum has swung to where it’s the least intrusion of government. None of us want intrusion of government. I think that we need to look at this very carefully, and I’m just very glad the legislators are looking at this.”
Weaver says the legislation would be based off a similar law enacted in Oregon five years ago where crime rates are at a 50-year low, meth lab busts have dropped significantly and meth treatment has dropped 32%.
In Oklahoma, meth lab busts have gone from 213 in 2008 to 818 last year, and are expected to top 900 this year.
The main reason is a process known as “smurfing” where meth makers pay several different people to get the Pseudoephedrine using multiple IDs.
David Starkey also suffers from allergies, but he supports prescription pseudoephedrine, because the law breakers have obviously found a way around Oklahoma’s 2004 law.
“These people have 20 IDs well you can get 3 boxes per ID, and they get $100 per box so that’s $6,000 a month for that person. That’s tax free money or trade for meth.”
Starkey runs a website called stopmethlabs.com out of Claremore.
He takes gel cap pseudoephedrine, one of the 117 products which won’t need a prescription because law enforcement officials say it can’t be used for meth.
Starkey also suggests that pharmaceutical companies aren’t supporting the measure because of the meth industry.
Consumer HealthCare Products, a national organization representing medicine manufacturers and distributors say that’s simply not true.
The organization is looking at Oklahoma’s database which only tracks pseudoephedrine sales within the state as the real culprit for not stopping pseudoephedrine sales to meth makers.
So, illegal drug buyers, especially in the northeast, can go into Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas to get the drug and then come back into Oklahoma and still buy the maximum amount.
State Relations Director Carlos Gutierrez says he wants to help Oklahoma expand its online database to search beyond its borders just like 17 other states are doing.
“There’s actually no cost to the retailer. There’s no cost to the state. No cost to law enforcement. The industry has willingly said that if this is mandated throughout the state of Oklahoma, then we’d be willing to cover the tab essentially. We’d be willing to pay for the service.”
Gutierrez is taking part in a task force later this year which will look at legislation to make that a reality.
Another lawmaker is planning to file a bill to restrict the amount of pseudoephedrine within a three day period rather than just 24 hours.