Missouri House ponders pseudoephedrine bills
By: Sarah Wilson
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recently ranked St. Louis as No. 29 in the 100 most challenging cities to live in with spring allergies; one reason why the concern for over-the-counter drugs containing pseudoephedrine is at its peak. Yet Missouri remains the top methamphetamine-producing state in the country – pseudoephedrine is an ingredient in meth – forcing lawmakers to take action. Some St. Louis County municipalities have taken the issue into their own hands by banning over-the-counter pseudoephedrine sales.
On the state level, House Bill 1328, sponsored by Rep. Stanley Cox, could change the laws regarding the sale and possession of controlled substances by reducing the amount of monthly and annual purchase of pseudoephedrine, enacting tougher penalties for criminals in possession of pseudoephedrine and requiring anyone convicted of a drug-related offense to obtain a prescription for pseudoephedrine medicines.
A different bill, House Bill 1952, also known as the Meth Lab Elimination Act, sponsored by Rep. Dave Schatz, would require asthma and allergy patients to obtain a prescription before purchasing allergy and cold medicines that are currently available over the counter.
Schatz said there is a new technology, Tarex, that pertains to his bill. According to Maryland Heights-based Highland Pharmaceuticals, Tarex is an innovative, lipid based, tamper/extraction resistant technology that delivers pharmaceuticals in a format that maintains patient efficacy while deterring misuse of the medication. Because Tarex makes it harder to make meth it has the potential to impact illicit meth trafficking.
Jim Bausch, president of the pharmaceutical company, said in a press release that if pharmaceutical manufacturers would adopt the technology, millions of state dollars and valuable time could be freed up from current law enforcement efforts to identify, convict and incarcerate meth cooks.
“I love this idea,” Dr. Susan Berdy, an allergist from Allergy Consultants, said. “I think it would solve a lot of problems, but I would like the FDA to test it on humans before anything.”
In response to the proposed bills, the AAFA has taken a strong stance opposed to Bill 1952 but supporting 1328.
“Combating meth abuse and use should be a top priority for policymakers, law enforcement officials and community leaders throughout the country, and we applaud Rep. Schatz for trying to do something about these enormous challenges in Missouri,” Bill McLin, AAFA president and CEO, said. “However, we believe that significant strides can be made in the battle against meth without unreasonably burdening patients and families. HB 1328 is the better approach.”
Joy Krieger, executive director of the AAFA-St. Louis Chapter, agreed and said that for many Missouri patients who suffer from chronic allergy and asthma symptoms, over-the-counter medicines containing pseudoephedrine are the only decongestants that work and the only treatments that offer 12- and 24-hour relief.
“HB 1952 would prevent thousands of Missouri patients from receiving timely and affordable health care,” Krieger said. “It is a huge burden on our health care system to require these allergy medications to be prescription only. Patients must take time off work to see their physicians, pay a co-payment and then pay a higher price for the medicine because it goes through a pharmacy. If you don’t have insurance, and have no physician, you will further burden our emergency rooms just to get a prescription.”
Berdy concurred and said she does not think Sudafed should be available by prescription.
“The system we have in place is actually working, where people have to have proper identification and a driver’s license to purchase Sudafed,” Berdy said. “Local governments should not be making decisions about what should be available over the counter. That’s a job for the FDA.”
However, Schatz, in an opinion column at emissourian.com, said Cox’s bill “is merely an attempt to allow the pharmaceutical industry to ignore a problem they know exists.”
“However, what I am proposing, will virtually eliminate all meth labs, saving our state valuable resources,” Schatz wrote.
As of presstime, Bill 1952 had a public hearing but has yet to receive a vote to pass out of committee, and Bill 1328 passed out of committee and was placed on the “perfection” calendar before going to the House floor to be debated.