The drug industry and consumers challenged proposed legislation Thursday which would restrict how Kentuckians could obtain certain cold and allergy medicines. The chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee has a bill which would require a prescription to buy medicines that contain pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient needed to make meth.
Law enforcement is pushing for the legislation to help curb the skyrocketing number of make-shift, mobile meth labs which are being found across the state. Meth makers and the people who help them stock up on the pseudo, known as “smurfers,” buy large amounts of cold and allergy medicine to make the dangerous drug.
"That's what these bills are all about, is stopping, cutting down the number of labs,” said Senator Tom Jensen, R-London, chair of the panel. He says the legislation is not aimed at meth use.
"A prescription mandate is not the silver bullet that I think is often times advertised,” said Carlos Gutierrez, who is with the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the trade group representing the pharmaceutical industry.
While the drug companies have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to kill the bill last year and fight it again this legislative session, it may be the consumers who will sway lawmakers.
It’s estimated that almost 1.3 million boxes of medicine with pseudo type ingredients are sold annually in Kentucky.
“My conflict is why 99 percent of the population has to pay for the abusers,” said Steve Jarvis, a retired cop who lives in Walton.
"It's going to increase health care costs, it's going to cause parents to lose time on the job, it's going to cause children to miss school because of a common cold,” said Pat Davis, the mother of six and wife of U.S. Representative Geoff Davis, R-Kentucky.
Davis says it’s like trying to “slap a Band-aid on the problem."
But, the woman who founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Kentucky 30 years ago said she sees the need to further regulate pseudoephedrine "There is no doubt in my mind that this is part of the solution to eliminate meth labs,” Linda Windhorst of Louisville said.
Jenson says he can get his bill out of committee, but he’s not sure it can pass the full Senate. He said he’s still talking to other lawmakers about a compromise.
The legislature’s research arm estimates the legislation could save the state 12 to 20 million dollars in investigation, clean up, court and jail costs related to meth labs.