House panel backs limits on cold medicines with meth ingredient

jbrammer@herald-leader.comMarch 19, 2012 

FRANKFORT — On a 10-4 vote, the House Judiciary Committee approved a controversial anti-methamphetamine bill Monday that would limit the amount of cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine that Kentuckians could buy without a prescription.

Some members supporting the bill said it did not go far enough to attack the meth scourge in Kentucky, but it was a step in the right direction.

One lawmaker who voted for the bill had sharp criticism for the pharmaceutical industry that has conducted a heavy media campaign against the bill. Rep. Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow, said the industry has put money before people.

Opponents claimed the bill is too restrictive. Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, said it penalizes citizens for the criminal acts of others.

The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, calls for allowing Kentuckians to buy as much as 7.2 grams of pseudoephedrine in cold medications a month and 24 grams a year without a prescription.

Pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient in the production of meth.

Authorities say the number of meth labs in the state has been growing steadily.

Under the bill, purchasers of pseudoephedrine still would have to give a signature at the pharmacy, and the state would continue to track purchases with an electronic-monitoring system.

Gel caps and liquid pseudoephedrine would be excluded from the limit because making meth from those forms of the medicine is more

difficult.

Stivers initially wanted to set the dosage allowed without a prescription at 3.6 grams of month or 15 grams a year but the Senate increased the amounts to win votes to pass the bill.

A generic box of pseudoephedrine with 48 pills, each with a 30-milligram dosage, contains 1.44 grams of the medicine.

Earlier in this year's session, lawmakers were considering a bill that would have required a prescription for most cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine.

The House committee on Monday made a few changes in the bill from the Senate. The most significant would bar persons with meth-related convictions from buying pseudoephedrine.

House Judiciary Chairman John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, said he believes there are enough votes in the House to pass the bill that came out of his committee.

If so, it then would have to go back to the Senate for consideration of House changes. Tilley said Senate leaders have signed off on the changes the House committee made.

The pharmaceutical industry, however, is still fighting the measure. Elizabeth Funderburk, senior director of communications with the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, said in a statement Monday night, "We are disappointed with the outcome of the House Judiciary Committee's vote today on Senate Bill 3.

"CHPA is committed to working with legislators to win the battle against methamphetamine but does not support requiring restrictions that would burden many Kentucky families — particularly those chronic allergy sufferers — with increased healthcare costs, lost wages, and unnecessary trips to the doctor."

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com

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