Our Opinion: Evaluate before drawing cold remedies into meth battle

Sufferers of the common cold should not be drawn into the crossfire in the battle against meth.

Meth, the common name for methamphetamine, is a deadly, dangerous and highly addictive illegal drug.

A key ingredient in the manufacturer of meth is pseudoephedrine, found in many cold medications.

Lawmakers now are debating legislation requiring a doctor’s prescription to obtain those cold remedies. During a committee hearing last week, a number of law enforcement officials testified in favor of the proposal.

We believe adding a restriction with a side-effect of punishing cold sufferers is a step too far.

Miserably ill people would need to make a doctor’s appointment and wait an allotted time before receiving relief. Medical and insurance paperwork, and the consequent expenses, would escalate, further raising the cost and complexity of health care.

The fight to control meth already has prompted a number of state laws.

Cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine have been moved from shelves to behind pharmacy counters. Buyers may purchase only limited quantities and a photo ID is required. An electronic database recently was established to track purchases and identify stockpiling.

Resourceful meth-makers have countered by hiring traveling buyers to continue the supply stream.

Law enforcement officers and other supporters of the new law cite statistics showing a decline in meth labs in states that require prescriptions.

Spokesman for the nonprescription medicine industry and other opponents counter with statistics showing no correlation.

Missouri Pharmacy Association officials have encouraged lawmakers to suspend any action this session, so the effectiveness of the database can be evaluated properly.

In addition, statistics from Missouri cities that have imposed the requirement within their boundaries also may be relevant.

Meth manufacture and use is a major problem.

The weapons used to fight it, however, must be effective.

Before legislating a setback for cold sufferers and the health care industry, however, let’s at least evaluate the effectiveness of the restriction.

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