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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Housecleaning, Part IV: Oregon House Votes to Require Prescriptions for Pseudoephedrine Products

With a 55-4 vote, the Oregon House of Representatives has sent HB 2485, requiring prescriptions for cold and allergy medicines containing an ingredient used to make methamphetamine, to the Senate for passage.  The Oregonian reported that the bill is expected to quickly pass in the Senate and be signed into law.  (As reported in the Salem Statesman Journal, the bill passed out of committee on Monday, July 26, by a 5-0 vote and is now on its way to the full Senate.)

Many legislators voted for this bill despite the inconvenience and expense to constituents this law would create.  It would force a person to obtain a prescription for common over the counter drugs such as Sudafed and Claritin-D.  The law currently allows the purchase of these types of pills and drugs after a consumer shows identification and signs a log.  Rep. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, comments that "Could I lose my seat for doing the right thing?  Absolutely, and if necessary, I will."  Rep. Jeff Kropf, R-Sublimity, opposed the bill, saying that voters would not understand the complexities of the meth issue.  He argues that this new requirement "goes too far beyond common sense... What they're [the consituents] going to understand is: I'm being punished for something I didn't do."  He also argued that this bill would not be very effective in cutting down the number of meth labs since most of the meth in Oregon is imported from Mexican superlabs.  He says a better solution is prevention through education and treatment.  Another Representative, Tom Butler, R-Ontario, expressed concern over tourists to Oregon being arrested for carrying pseudo-ephedrine not purchased with a prescription.   Others dismiss that argument since someone carrying medicine for personal use would not be arrested and the need for tougher enforcement since most supplies come from out of state. 

As for the hardship issue, Rep. Bill Garrard, R-Klamath Falls says that drug companies are producing an increasing number of alternatives.  Pfizer, which makes Sudafed, sells an alternative that uses another decongestant and is planning to develope pseudo-ephedrine-free formulas of other brands.  Doctors would also be allowed to give prescriptions over the phone, and consumers could get up to 5 refills per 6-month period. 

Despite passing a companion bill which would provide money for drug treatment ($7.1 million), Rep. Gary Hansen, D-Portland, said the measures do "pathetically little for drug treatment... particularly in light of $28 million in cuts to treatment programs paid for through the Oregon Health Plan. " 

Lindley Bain contributed to this post. [twm]

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