(Tibi Ellis) – An editorial titled “How much would you pay to get rid of [the] meth problem?” recently ran in the Nevada Appeal. The article authored by Mr. Neil Rombardo made some interesting, yet incomplete points about the issue of methamphetamine abuse in Nevada.
We agree with Rombardo that the abuse of illegal drugs – particularly meth – is an important issue that requires a serious approach and commitment to solutions. Yet, we part ways on the answer. Mr. Rombardo would have you believe the only viable option to curtail meth abuse is to punish law-abiding Nevadans with burdensome laws that inhibit their ability to access popular cold and allergy medications.
With all due respect, I disagree. We can take commonsense steps that significantly impact meth abuse by putting in place an electronic tracking system for all products containing pseudoephedrine (PSE). Such as system would ensure that while consumers can maintain access to popular decongestants like Claritin-D or Sudafed, the illegal, over-the-federal limit sale to criminals will be blocked. This technology will effectively block the illegal sale of these medicines without radically altering the way of life of millions of Nevadans.
And how do we know an e-tracking system will work? Simple, we have the proof. Twelve states have adopted electronic tracking statutes, and in the four states that have had these systems in place long enough to have a track record, this stop-sale system has blocked nearly 40,000 grams of illegal pseudoephedrine sales per month that would have been above the legal limits. In South Carolina, e-tracking blocked the illegal sale of nearly 6,000 boxes of PSE medicines in January 2011 alone. So, it is possible to crack down on those violating the law without unnecessarily burdening working parents and families.
The reality is that Nevada is struggling through a tough economic time. Nearly one in five children don’t have health insurance, which leads to the question: how much can parents afford to pay to see a doctor? And the obvious response is that many won’t have the means to visit a doctor to access these medicines. Furthermore, the consequence of implementing a prescription-only mandate for cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine on Nevada families merits discussion. As a result of having to see a doctor to these basic medications, children miss school, parents will lose time at work and the state as a whole will fall farther behind.
And this assumes the infrastructure is in place to care for all those additional patients who will need to make appointments with their doctor instead of walking into their local pharmacy. Unfortunately for Mr. Rombardo, facts matter, and that’s one area where his argument falls short. Nevada is currently operating with one-third less healthcare resources than the average state. So, as a result of the misguided prescription-only policy, there is a greater likelihood that families who depend on these medicines will need to wait longer to see a doctor and workers will lose more work hours in a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.
The purported facts used to argue in favor of prescription-only legislation such as Senate Bill 203 also deserve examination.
Opponents of pragmatic solutions addressing meth abuse like e-tracking often cite Oregon passing a prescription mandate as a panacea, yet they fail to provide the complete picture. For instance, the number of Oregon meth labs were down 77% before the prescription-only law actually took effect. In addition, all of Oregon’s surrounding states experienced a significant reduction in meth labs by more than 90%, once again, in advance of the prescription-only law being implemented. And while supporters of SB 203 will lead Nevadans to believe they will only be mildly inconvenienced by the restrictive, proposed legislation, nothing could be further from the truth. No longer will moms and dads be able to purchase well-known and trusted products such as Advil Cold & Sinus, Aleve-D, Zyrtec, among numerous others without seeing a doctor first.
So, instead of asking, “How much would you pay to get rid of [the] meth problem” a more appropriate question to ask may be, “How much will Nevadans need to suffer in pursuit of a policy that increases costs and burdens on families?”