If you have purchased certain types of over-the-counter medicines recently in West Virginia, you know it is not a matter of just paying and leaving the store. Purchasing cold and allergy drugs containing pseudoephedrine requires that your name be recorded.
It is a minor inconvenience, but it helps in the battle against illegal methamphetamines. Pseudoephedrine can be extracted from the legal drugs and used to manufacture the unlawful substance.
Some state legislators want to make it even more difficult to obtain medicines useful in producing illegal drugs. They have proposed such pharmaceuticals be available only by prescription.
Now - the cold and flu season - is an excellent time to be debating the subject. Quite a few residents choose to battle such illnesses without seeking a doctor's advice. The cost and inconvenience of scheduling a visit with a health care provider figure into their thinking.
What if the drugs they now obtain without going through that process were available only by prescription? Clearly, many people would postpone getting care for minor illnesses until they developed into more serious problems such as sinus infections.
Arguments are being made that additional health care costs and inconvenience are small prices to pay for a system that could take a bite out of methamphetamine manufacturing in West Virginia. Many people don't see it that way, and they are right. Why should tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of West Virginia residents have to pay more in both time and money to counter the misdeeds of a few hundred illegal drug producers?
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has proposed an alternative. It is a system utilized successfully by several other states, in which better use is made of the current registration system for drugs with pseudoephedrine as an ingredient. Stores and pharmacies would be linked to alert each other of frequent and/or mass purchases of the medicines in question. The information would be available to law enforcement agencies.
The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee agrees. On Friday, it refused to add this prescription-only amendment to the governor's bill, although it could be added by other committees studying the measure.
The Legislature should adopt Tomblin's plan. It should be effective in reducing methamphetamine production, while not placing a new burden on the backs of law-abiding West Virginians.