WASHINGTON —Did the Combat Meth Act of 2005 not go far enough? Should the common and popular decongestant pseudoephedrine in fact be available only by prescription in an effort to further hamper illicit methamphetamine production?
Those were the questions addressed in April as the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control held its hearing around strategies that would keep PSE products out of the hands of meth cooks.
The Consumer Healthcare Products Association is calling on Congress to amend and strengthen the federal Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act by requiring nationwide electronic tracking for all over-the-counter sales of cold and allergy medicines in lieu of establishing an additional barrier to the legitimate purchase of the cough-cold-allergy medicine.
According to the CHPA, presently 10-outof-the-12 states that have recently addressed PSE availability have opted for e-tracking—the creation of electronic logbooks accessible in real-time to local law enforcement to better track those criminals attempting to exceed their legal limits in PSE purchases. Those states include Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and Washington, of which eight states have adopted the National Precursor Log Exchange system, an interstate electronic tracking system funded by manufacturers of PSE products. The advantage to the NPLEx system is that it helps block sales across state lines, as well.
The NPLEx e-tracking system works in real time to stop individuals from exceeding package limits when purchasing PSE-containing medicines. Using sales records that retailers already are required to keep, and which only are made available to law enforcement, NPLEx works across state lines and provides law enforcement with an effective tool to stop methamphetamine production.
“We are asking Congress to significantly improve the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act by leveraging cutting-edge technology to block illegal pseudoephedrine sales nationwide,” stated CHPA president Linda Suydam. “Electronic tracking offers the best solution to reducing methamphetamine labs without imposing a costly and unnecessary prescription mandate. Our goal is to stop illegal pseudoephedrine sales while maintaining important over-the-counter access to the 15 million consumers who rely on these medicines each year.”
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores similarly supported the use of a system like NPLEx, arguing that the reverse switch of PSE from OTC-to-Rx would result in an unnecessary increase in overall healthcare costs for consumers, state and federal governments, and private employers.
“Consumers, health insurers and other third-party payers, including Medicaid, would be forced to absorb the added cost of otherwise unnecessary doctor and emergency room visits, thus ballooning the cost of treating colds, flu and allergies from a few dollars to upward of $100,” NACDS stated. “Offsetting the increased costs would be particularly challenging due the fact that designating pseudoephedrine products as prescription drugs would also result in lost sales tax revenue.”
It’s no small issue for state coffers either. Sales of the four leading PSE tablet SKUs—Mucinex DM and Mucinex D, Claritin D and Zyrtec D — totaled $405.6 million for the 52 weeks ended April 18 across food, drug and mass (excluding Walmart) according to SymphonyIRI Group, based on growth of 2.4%. Factoring an average 5.1% sales tax across all states and Washington, D.C., that would equate to $20.7 million in lost tax revenues across those four branded SKUs alone.
Only two states, Oregon and Mississippi, have instead elected to make PSE medicines available by prescription only. Suydam challenged the effectiveness of Oregon’s prescription-only law at the hearing, however, noting that most of Oregon’s lab reductions occurred prior to the state’s prescription mandate and that states across the West achieved similar results without such a burdensome restriction.
|STATE||TIMELINE TO IMPLEMENTATION|
|Louisiana||June 15, 2010|
|Missouri||Finalizing regulations, expected summer 2010|
|Kansas||Finalizing regulations, expected fall 2010|
|Iowa||Under public review, expected 2011|
|Alabama||Jan. 1, 2011|
|Washington||July 1, 2011|