Stop requiring prescriptions for cold pills
Cold and allergy sufferers would no longer need a prescription to purchase Sudafed and other brands of decongestants containing pseudoephedrine — an ingredient used to manufacture methamphetamine — under a bill awaiting final action in the Oregon House. The law requiring a prescription was reasonable when it took effect in 2006, but it’s no longer essential and should be repealed.
Police in Jackson County seized 20 clandestine meth labs in 2001. Statewide, the total that year was 591. In 2004, the Legislature passed new laws putting Sudafed behind pharmacy counters and limiting the amount that could be purchased at one time. The number of meth lab seizures immediately began to drop, from 448 statewide in 2004 to 185 in 2005.
Still, lawmakers wanted to do more, and the 2005 Legislature passed a law classifying pseudoephedrine as a Class III controlled substance and requiring a prescription to obtain it.
Today, seizures of home-grown meth labs are few and far between, but it’s not clear that the prescription requirement is still necessary. Oregon and Mississippi are the only two states with the requirement on the books. Other states control the medication by keeping it behind pharmacy counters and requiring customers to show identification, which pharmacy staff check against a national tracking database to make sure the same person hasn’t exceeded the limit on purchases at multiple pharmacies — even across state lines.
Law-abiding customers, meanwhile, are forced to see a doctor to obtain a prescription for what once was an over-the-counter purchase. That’s expensive and inconvenient, and there is little evidence that it is necessary to keep homegrown meth labs rare.
Meth addiction is still a serious problem in this state, but users aren’t getting their supply from home cooks or making it themselves. “Superlabs” in Mexico responded to the demand by producing higher quality, cheaper methamphetamine and smuggling it into the country.
That’s a separate issue that needs to be addressed, but continuing to require a prescription for cold and allergy medications will do nothing to stop it.
House Bill 2303 has been waiting for the House to address amendments added in the Senate. The bill is scheduled for action Monday. Lawmakers should pass it.