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Rep. David Derby: Success in the Fight Against Meth Labs

12.10.15 – Rep. David Derby, Tulsa World

For years, Oklahoma has been a national leader in cracking down on the production of methamphetamines. We were the first to move meth precursor medications behind the counter, we were the first to begin tracking pseudoephedrine sales, and, in 2012, I sponsored legislation limiting patient access to pseudoephedrine per month and year. Those combined policies have made Oklahoma the strongest anti-meth state in the country and have led to a significant reduction in meth-lab seizures.

Pseudoephedrine, an ingredient in popular over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines, is at times used by criminals to make meth. Following Oklahoma’s lead, the federal government and many states have taken steps to ensure the sale of medicines containing pseudoephedrine is carefully monitored and regulated. Beyond that, 32 states — including Oklahoma — use the National Precursor Log Exchange system to block the illegal sale of pseudoephedrine- at the point of sale, and in real-time. That technology allows us to go a step further, becoming the first state to ban the sale of pseudoephedrine medication to known meth criminals.

As a pharmacist myself, I can attest to the importance of patient access to medications like Sudafed, Claritin-D, and Allegra-D to name just a few. Two states, unfortunately, have resorted to drastic, and costly, prescription-only requirements for all sales of pseudoephedrine. A new study by Matrix Global Advisors CEO Alex Brill finds that proposals to restrict access — specifically legislation that would require a prescription for pseudoephedrine-based products as is required in Oregon and Mississippi — would cost consumers, insurers, state governments and the federal government $130 million in the first year alone.

The fact is, Oklahoma’s patient-friendly, criminal-strict policies are working. In the first five months of this year, the log exchange system has blocked the sale of 23,697 boxes of pseudoephedrine in Oklahoma. In other words, nearly 60,000 grams were prevented from being purchased illegally. And, overall, Oklahoma meth labs have dropped 77 percent since enacting our anti-meth legislation in 2012.

While the number of meth labs in Oklahoma is in sharp decline, the unfortunate truth is that meth addiction is not. According to July comments by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, meth addiction in Oklahoma continues to rise. How? The OBN says that many dealers get their meth from Mexican suppliers able to bring drugs up the Interstate 35 corridor from Mexico. “Use, addiction and meth-related deaths continue to climb as Mexican drug trafficking organizations are flooding the U.S. market with imported crystal meth or ice,” OBN spokesman Mark Woodward said in July.

Brill’s study affirms this: “Policies that restrict access to pseudoephedrine medicines fail to address core underlying issues: continued demand for meth in the United States and an increase in foreign supply of the drug.”

Read more here.