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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Pacific NW

Meth bill passes Oregon House

Brad Cain Associated Press

SALEM – State lawmakers took their final step Monday toward making Oregon the first state to require a doctor’s prescription for cold and allergy medicines that contain pseudoephedrine – the key ingredient in the illicit manufacturing of methamphetamine.

The House voted 57-2 to send the bill to Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a strong supporter who has called the measure the major step in the fight against the methamphetamine epidemic. Kulongoski is expected to sign the bill later this week.

The anti-meth bill won overwhelming approval in both the state House and Senate despite complaints from a few lawmakers who said some of their constituents will be angry when they have to obtain prescriptions for such common drugs as Sudafed and Claritin D.

On Monday, a leading backer of the bill called that argument “ridiculous.”

Rep. Wayne Krieger, R-Gold Beach, said other cold and allergy medicines come in versions that contain phenylephrine, an alternative to pseudoephedrine that works just as well for most consumers and can’t be converted into highly addictive methamphetamine.

Krieger also said some drug companies are moving to reformulate their cold and allergy medicines so they don’t contain pseudoephedrine.

“Is this bill going to be an inconvenience for some people? Yes, a little one,” Krieger said. “But 99 percent of people will find out that the other products are just as good, and they will buy them off the shelf.”

Under the legislation, the state Board of Pharmacy will have until next July to implement the prescription requirement.

But Gary Schnabel, the board’s executive director, said the rule could be put into effect sooner than that, possibly within three months.

Once the rules are in place, consumers who want a cold or allergy medicine containing pseudoephedrine will be required to contact their doctor for a prescription. Patients will be allowed as many as five refills in a six-month period, Schnabel said.

Tom Holt, executive director of the Oregon State Pharmacy Association, said his members support the new regulation.

Holt said he thinks actions such as passage of the Oregon legislation will drive pseudoephedrine-containing cold and allergy pills out of the market within a year or two.

In the meantime, Holt predicted that most Oregonians will decide not to seek a doctor’s prescription and will choose cold and allergy medicines that don’t contain pseudoephedrine.

“I think most people who do try them will find they work just as well,” he said.

Oregon and several other states already require consumers to show identification and sign a log when obtaining pseudoephedrine-containing cold and allergy medicines from pharmacies, and Congress is moving toward similar restrictions nationally.

Supporters of Oregon’s new prescription requirement said the earlier steps haven’t been enough to stop people from buying enough pseudo-ephedrine-containing cold pills to manufacture methamphetamine in home labs.

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