CHARLESTON - The West Virginia Senate Committee on Health voted Tuesday to move ahead with a proposal to make drugs used in the production of methamphetamine available only by prescription.
The bill would allow an exception for certain over-the-counter drugs that are deemed "tamper resistant" by the Board of Pharmacy.
West Virginia Board of Pharmacy Executive Director David Potters said "tamper resistant" pseudoephedrines are drugs in which only a low percentage of methamphetamine can be extracted.
If approved, West Virginia would be the first state to make pseudoephedrines a Schedule IV prescription drug while allowing an exemption for low yielding over-the-counter medications, he said. He knows of two over-the-counter drugs that might fall into this exempted category.
Sen. Ronald Miller, D-Greenbrier, raised concerns about how this bill might affect the ways pseudoephedrines are tracked by law enforcement.
Potters said exempt drugs would be tracked through the state's controlled substance monitoring database instead of the pseudoephedrine tracking system NPlex used by the state. This means police would need reasonable suspicion to access information on drugs such as Sudafed.
Speaking in opposition to the bill, Bridget Lambert, president of the West Virginia Retailers Association, said the NPLEx system "grants law enforcement a tremendous amount of leeway." Police can search the database without reasonable suspicion and can monitor who purchases Sudafed within a 3-hour period of known meth producer purchases, helping them discover rings of "meth smurfing."
She also noted that only certain members of the State Police and Drug Task Forces have immediate access to the prescription database.
Elizabeth Funderburk, a spokeswoman for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, said the legislation targets law-abiding citizens instead of criminals.
"We commend the Senate Health Committee for taking on the serious issue of meth production and abuse in West Virginia, but unfortunately, Senate Bill 6 falls short of adequately addressing the problem and instead creates a host of unintended consequences," she said.
The bill, according to Funderburk, "will create a costly hardship on law-abiding citizens in the form of time off of work, additional trips to the doctor and higher copays at the pharmacy."
Sen. Art Kirkendoll, D-Logan, said the committee struck a balance between preserving drug access for law-abiding citizens and cracking down on meth production.
Sen. Chris Walters, R-Putnam, said he plans to propose a new bill this week that will "address criminals without interfering with law-abiding citizens." He said his proposal will focus on creating a meth offender registry and will suggest lowering the yearly purchase maximum from 48 to 36 grams.
Creating a meth registry has aided in Kentucky's reduction of meth labs, he said.