Bill could be prescription to combat meth problem
by James Phillips
Mar 13, 2011 | 2657 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A bill being considered in the Alabama Legislature would limit public access to pseudoephedrine by making it a controlled substance.

The drug is legally sold to control nasal and sinus congrestion, but it is also a key ingredient in the manufacturing of methamphetamine. Walker County District Attorney Bill Adair said he believes the drug should be available by prescription only.

"This law would require a prescription for people to get drugs like Sudafed," he said. "Judging by the success rates that we've seen in the two other states that have done this, I think it would be foolish not to pass this law. We have a considerable methamphetamine problem in Walker County and across the State of Alabama. I firmly believe this is the right move to help fight that problem."

Adair said Oregon and Mississippi have passed similar laws in recent years.

"The information that I've gathered showed Oregon has had a 90 percent decline in its number of meth labs since the law was passed in 2006," he said. "Mississippi only passed the law last year and it's already seen meth labs decrease by more than 60 percent."

The bill, which is Senate Bill 88, is sponsored by Sen. Roger Bedford (R-Russellville) and is currently in the Senate Health Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Greg Reed (R-Jasper). Reed said he expects the bill to make it to the Senate floor for a full debate.

"This bill is receiving a lot of bipartisan cooperation," Reed said. "Meth is a significant problem in our state and especially in counties in northwest Alabama. I've talked to many members of law enforcement and to district attorneys from around the state, and they all think this law would be beneficial in fighting this terrible problem."

Jasper Police Chief Danny Patton said he hopes the bill is put into law. Patton said drugs containing pseudoephedrine are currently limited to two boxes per purchase, but that doesn't stop meth makers from going to several different stores at a time.

"I think it could be a great asset to law enforcement," he said. "It has proven to work in other areas. It would eliminate the ability to go from pharmacy to pharmacy buying these drugs."

Reed said he has heard two arguments against the bill. He said drug companies have said there would be a reduction in the number of purchases due to the drugs only being available by prescription.

"The drug companies are concerned about sales, but I also know they don't want these drugs used for criminal purposes," he said.

Reed said he has also heard some outcry from the general public who feel it would be an inconvenience.

"You're going to have people who disagree, but I have to make a decision as to what benefits the most people," he said. "I agree that we have to do whatever we can to eliminate the horror of meth. We have a responsibility to try to do that."

A public hearing on the bill will be set in the future, Reed said. He did not know a timetable for that hearing, but he expected it to be soon.

"We want to give people a chance to share their views on this topic," he said. "I expect the bill will take time to pass, but I believe it will move forward."