A Prescription For Allergies

February 27, 2014

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By:  Rob Jones

“I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.”

 – Thomas Jefferson

“Freedom is lost gradually from an uninterested, uninformed, and uninvolved people.”  – Thomas Jefferson

“Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.” – John Adams, Defense of the Constitutions, 1787

Back on February 12, 2014, I wrote a column, entitled “Disloyal Subjects”. This column was about the attempt of West Virginia to require a prescription, in order to get any medications, which contain “pseudoephedrine”, with “Senate Bill 6″. In that column, I discussed some of the problems and side effects, that such a law would cause. Some of those would be force lower income families to pay higher co-pays, gasoline, and lost wages. But for what? In a vain attempt to stop people from using medicines, such as Sudafed and Claritin-D, which contain “pseudoephedrine”, from making the illegal narcotic “meth”. Will this work to curb the meth problem in West Virginia? No, it won’t, but that certainly won’t stop the State Legislatures from trying it.

Over the years, states have passed many laws, in an effort to stop unwanted behaviors. We have many laws against driving while intoxicated, possession of illegal narcotics, and waiting periods for the purchase of a firearm. Have these laws done anything to the number of DUI’s arrested every year? Have these laws done anything to the number of possession/possession with intent to deliver arrests every year? Have these laws done anything to the number of crimes committed with a firearm every year? Some will argue that they have, but the truth is, they have had a negligible effect. As an example, I have personally arrested several individuals, whom I had to charge with fifth offense DUI. As a police officer, I can tell you, from experience, that meth isn’t the problem that they want you to believe it is. The biggest problem on our streets, right now, is prescription medications, such as Hydrocodone and Valium. Ask any police officer and see what they tell you.

On Wednesday, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association released a 31-page report, alleging the bill would drive up health-care costs and inconvenience consumers. The lobbying group’s initial press release said the prescription requirement would cost West Virginia $247.6 million — the same number mentioned in the final report. Later in the day, lobbyists notified the media that the actual cost to the state was $149.4 million over 10 years. “Lawmakers should know the true costs before voting on any proposals to restrict non-prescription access to popular allergy and cold medications,” said Carlos Gutierrez, a lobbyist with the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. Foster said the legislation would save the state millions of dollars each year by lowering numerous costs — jail, drug treatment, law enforcement, foster care and meth lab cleanup expenses. “The vast majority of folks will not use pseudoephedrine,” Foster said. “They’ll use other drugs, including those exempted in the bill.”

The legislation exempts so-called “tamper-resistant” pseudoephedrine products, such as Nexafed and Zephrex-D, which can’t easily be used to make meth. A West Liberty official said Wednesday the drug industry lobbying group gave the university’s research foundation a “grant of $10,000 to $15,000″ to complete the study. The drug trade group wouldn’t disclose how much it paid the university. The study, completed by West Liberty economics professor Serkan Catma, says a prescription law would cost West Virginia consumers $3.7 million in higher drug prices and additional doctor visits. Catma estimated that the number of doctor visits to get a prescription for the cold medicine would increase by 78,817 per year in West Virginia, while state residents without health insurance would have to pay $1.83 million more each year for prescription medications. Catma’s study also found that the state would lose $8.3 million in lost worker productivity, if employees were required to go to the doctor to get a prescription for pseudoephedrine — sold under brand names such as Sudafed and Claritin-D. Catma said West Virginia would lose $321,309 in sales tax revenue each year. Consumers now pay sales tax on the cold medication. Prescription purchases wouldn’t be taxed.

The cost to insurance companies would increase $5 million a year, according to the study. “In conducting this economic impact study, our mission was not to pass judgment or analyze the soundness of the policy itself, but to instead focus strictly on the costs and budget implications associated with the prescription requirement,” said Catma in a prepared statement. Only two states, Mississippi and Oregon, require a prescription for pseudoephedrine products. Several counties in Missouri also have prescription laws. Meth labs decreased sharply in those states and counties.

In Mississippi, doctor visits didn’t increase, and prescription costs to the state employees’ insurance program jumped by $60,000 — nowhere near the $1.83 million that Catma estimated for West Virginia, Foster said. “What he’s talking about in the report just does not happen,” he said. “It’s sad what they’re trying to do. We’re talking about a cold medication.” About 10 percent of West Virginians purchased medications containing pseudoephedrine last year, according to a report released by the Board of Pharmacy last month. West Virginia law enforcement officers seized 533 meth labs last year, nearly double the 287 labs found in 2012.

Catma’s sudy mentions meth lab seizures, but excluded last year’s total. In an email, Catma said he completed his cost study in December, before State Police reported the year-end meth lab numbers. Catma’s report also includes information that drug-industry lobbyists have previously distributed to state lawmakers and the media in West Virginia. For instance, the report warns the pseudoephedrine prescription requirement could exacerbate West Virginia’s problem with prescription drugs. West Virginia has the nation’s highest drug overdose rate. Delegate Don Perdue, D-Wayne, said the study was “biased and nonsense.” “It’s based on pure speculation and fuzzy math,” Perdue said. “You tell me where a man gets his corn from, and I’ll tell you where he gets his opinions.” The House Judiciary Committee will next review the bill.

How your state Senators voted on Senate Bill 6:

Yes, a prescription should be required:

Beach, D-Monongalia; Cann, D-Harrison; Cookman, D-Hampshire; Edgell, D-Wetzel; Facemire, D-Braxton; Fitzsimmons, D-Ohio; Green, D-Raleigh; D. Hall, D-Wyoming; Jenkins, R-Cabell; Kessler, D-Marshall; Kirkendoll, D-Logan; Laird, D-Fayette; McCabe, D-Kanawha; Miller, D-Greenbrier; Palumbo, D-Kanawha; Plymale, D-Wayne; Prezioso, D-Marion; Snyder, D-Jefferson; Stollings, D-Boone; Tucker, D-Nicholas; Unger, D-Berkeley; Walters, R-Putnam; Wells, D-Kanawha; Williams, D-Taylor; Yost, D-Brooke.

No, a prescription should not be required:

Barnes, R-Randolph; Blair, R-Berkeley; Boley, R-Pleasants; Carmichael, R-Jackson; Chafin, D-Mingo; Cole, R-Mercer; M. Hall, R-Putnam; Nohe, R-Wood; Sypolt, R-Preston.

The bottom line is that both sides can get studies that support both sides. This is done all of the time. What concerns me though, is that common sense seems to be lacking here. If you take any type of medication, you know that some things work for you well, while others don’t work at all. What works for you may not work for the next person. So, to assume that people will just use other meds is pure garbage. People will still get these medications. They’ll just cross the border into Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, and Kentucky to get them. West Virginia will lose tax revenue. Area businesses will lose purchase revenue. Some people will have no choice, but to get a prescription, in order to get the medicine that works for them. Those people will lose time and wages from work, pay the cost of gasoline, higher co-pays, and eventually higher insurance costs.

Senate Bill 6 was a bad idea when it was introduced before. It’s still a bad idea now. We can hope that the West Virginia House of Delegates does the right thing again, and votes this Bill down. We need to make phone calls and send emails, to make sure that they know that West Virginians don’t want this law. Mountaineers can’t sit back and allow our state Legislators to go to extremes simply because they feel that they “need to do something”. There are many important issues that need attention. If medicine abuse is important to them, they need to tackle the abuse of prescription pills, such as Hydrocodone and Valium. This a much worse problem for our state than meth labs. So is heroine, which has been causing many overdoses in the last several months, resulting in dozens of deaths. West Virginia is the master of our own path. We need to act that way and take control of our officials. God Bless You! God Bless West Virginia! God Bless America!


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