Editorials

Editorial: Meth, money and lobbying: Guess who's biggest spender again

Looking into the archives at the Herald-Leader some remarkably similar headlines pop up year after year.

In May, 2010 there was this: "Over-the-counter medicine group is top lobbyist; organization opposed ephedrine restriction."

In May of this year: "Cold-medicine lobbyists drop big bucks; Industry group Sets record: more than $450,000 spent."

During the 2010 legislative session the Consumer Healthcare Products Association easily outdistanced other lobbying interests with reported spending of $307,777. CHPA, which represents companies that make and sell pseudoephedrine, a common, over-the-counter cold and allergy medicine that is an essential ingredient in methamphetamine, took top honors again this year, reporting $486,053. That, the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission pointed out, is a record for any one lobbying employer in any session.

Not only that, it isn't even all the money CHPA spent to mangle bills restricting access to the drug. It also invested heavily in advertising on the issue, an expense that is not reported as a lobbying expense.

Let's not mince words.

A huge portion of the pseudoephedrine sold in Kentucky is used to make meth, an illegal drug that endangers not only the users but also anyone who happens to be nearby when it's being made. (Here again a review of headlines is instructive. Some samples: "Mobile meth lab trend on the rise, Move endangers motorists," July, 2002; "Alliance's concern is kids in meth labs; 30,000 in state likely exposed to toxins," December, 2004; "Meth Lab Disasters; Kentucky's only two burn units are overburdened by drug cooks," November, 2005; "Toddler drank cup of death; Drain cleaner used in making meth was left on table," June, 2009.

An initial proposal to require a prescription for pseudoephedrine was eventually watered down to limiting monthly purchases to 7.2 grams (30 times the 240 milligrams in a 24-hour treatment for an adult) and 24 grams a year.

When CHPA manages to assure, with the help of compliant legislators, that Kentuckians will be able to purchase far more pseudoephedrine than they could ever safely use, they are assuring a market for smurfers who buy the drug for meth makers. That's why law enforcement agencies around the state, and others, support stricter controls on the drug. But, of course, they don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars to make their case.

The pharmaceutical companies that make and sell the various cold and allergy medicines which contain pseuodephedrine do have the money. While CHPA and its allies cloak their message in concern for the average allergy and cold sufferer, the money tells a different story. They are protecting a profitable product.

As the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money.

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