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Prescriptions not needed for cold drugs

12.29.14 –Inter-Mountain, West Virginia

Purchasing cold and allergy medicine containing pseudoephedrine already is inconvenient enough in West Virginia. The drugs cannot be taken off a store shelf. Instead, buyers must go to prescription counters, show identification, then sign for their pills.

Most consumers seem willing to do that, if it helps battle the traffic in illegal methamphetamines.

Pseudoephedrine is used as a raw material by “meth lab” operators who produce the illegal drug. One means of obtaining pseudoephedrine is to buy cold or allergy drugs containing it.

That has become much more difficult to do in West Virginia. Most, if not all, stores stocking pseudoephedrine medicines are part of the NPLEx system. It links them via computer.

Using the system, druggists can monitor pseudoephedrine purchases by individuals – and can refuse to sell to those who are trying to obtain more than needed for legitimate use. NPLEx information also can be shared with law enforcement agencies.

It seems to work. During the first nine months of this year, sales of medicines containing pseudoephedrine were down 31 percent, compared to the same period in 2013.

That meant 105,905 fewer boxes of the drugs sold, according to the West Virginia Retailers Association.

Where it counts, in illegal meth labs, the impact also has been dramatic. Meth lab seizures were down 40 percent statewide this year.

Despite the NPLEx program’s success, calls for pseudoephedrine sales to be restricted to prescription only are being renewed.

Requiring prescriptions for medicines some cold and allergy sufferers say are the only way they can get relief would be an enormous disservice to many West Virginians.

They would have to take time to visit doctors to get prescriptions – at a substantial cost.

Forcing many Mountain State residents to suffer in order to attack an illegal drug problem that appears to be on the wane makes no sense.

The NPLEx system – along with the hard work of law enforcement agencies – is working.

State legislators should say no to the idea of requiring prescriptions, as they have in the past.

Read more  here.