Senate approves revised bill limiting purchases of pseudoephedrine

jbrammer@herald-leader.comMarch 2, 2012 

Kentucky Senate

Senate Majority Floor Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, signals for the legislative session to begin in Frankfort, Ky., Friday, Jan. 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)

ED REINKE — AP

FRANKFORT — The state Senate approved a revised version of a controversial anti-methamphetamine bill Friday that would decrease the amount of cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine that Kentuckians could purchase without a prescription.

On a vote of 25-11, the chamber sent Senate Bill 3 to the House.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said House members generally support what the bill is trying to accomplish but want to study its details.

The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, initially called for allowing Kentuckians to buy up to 3.6 grams of pseudoephedrine a month, or 15 grams a year. (A generic box of pseudoephedrine with 48 pills, each with a 30-milligram dosage, contains 1.44 grams of the medicine.)

The Senate, however, approved by voice vote an amendment by Sen. Jerry Rhoads, D-Madisonville, that would raise those limits to 7.2 grams a month and 24 grams a year.

Pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient in meth, which has been called a scourge on Kentucky.

Rhoads said his amendment "will eliminate a lot of unnecessary visits to the doctor, while, at the same time, accomplishing our goal of trying to curb meth."

Stivers, R-Manchester, said he preferred the lower limits but compromise was needed to pass the bill.

The bill also bans people with drug-related convictions from purchasing pseudoephedrine.

The Senate defeated an amendment offered by Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, that would prohibit only people with meth-related convictions from buying cold medicines for five years.

Denton, who voted against the bill, called it "an imposition on law-abiding citizens."

Under the bill, gel caps and liquid pseudoephedrine would be excluded from the limit because making meth from those forms of the medicine is more difficult.

Doctors would be allowed to prescribe up to 7.5 grams of pseudoephedrine a month.

The bill was an alternative to SB 50, a measure Stivers withdrew last week. It would have required a prescription for most cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine.

Makers of pseudoephedrine remedies have fought the bill with a heavy advertising and lobbying campaign.

"We are disappointed with the outcome of the vote today on Senate Bill 3," Scott Melville, president and chief executive officer of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association said in a statement.

"Gaining the upper hand against meth producers and dealers does not require unnecessary restrictions imposed on many Kentucky families — particularly seasonal allergy sufferers — by burdening them with increased health care costs, lost wages, and unnecessary trips to the doctor," Melville said.

He said the industry hopes the House will "work toward an approach that takes into account consumer sentiment and therapeutic needs ..."

Senate Judiciary Chairman Tom Jensen, R-London, showed his colleagues a graphic photo of a young woman who was severely burned by a meth explosion.

Stivers offered a coroner's record of autopsies in Clay County that showed a high incidence of illegal drugs.

Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said Kentucky could become a national leader in fighting meth with the bill. He called it "a very minimal imposition" and predicted that it will save lives.

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