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NEW YORK Attempting to curtail methamphetamine production by more or less eliminating the precursor ingredient pseudoephedrine from the market is kind of like throwing out the baby with the bathwater. PSE is a legitimate self-care option that is, according to general consensus, more effective than the other cough-cold decongestant on the market — phenylephrine. And restricting access to that self-care option hurts legitimate consumers more than it does meth cooks. But more on that in a second.
The fact of the matter is it may be a mistake to force consumers into a doctor’s office for more-effective cold-symptom relief, especially at a time when physician access is already an issue and the cost surrounding that physician access — including the office visit and the prescription-drug cost, not to mention the time — is a top concern among consumers.
The reality of the matter is that the 36.8 million California residents, who comprise 12.1% of the U.S. population and make up approximately 11.7% of national retail sales, may just simply buy less PSE. At best that means the average cold sufferer will suffer slightly more from their symptoms. At worst, it means that suffering will translate into more sick days utilized and lower productivity statewide.
Another significant consequence is the cost that would be borne by retailers and manufacturers, both in lost PSE sales and an added cost in detailing doctors around a decongestant that’s been available OTC for quite some time.
So here’s the kicker — further restricting access to PSE by reverse switching it to prescription-only status may not have any greater impact on the production, sale or abuse of meth than the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005. To be sure, CMEA did have a significant impact — the number of meth-related lab seizures in the Southwest region plummeted from 1,178 in 2004 to 155 last year, citing National System Seizure data through Nov. 4. While lab seizures were down, meth use remained constant — meth-addicts just sourced their drug of choice from somewhere else.
Mexico had become that primary source of meth to U.S. users through mid-2008, which is about the time that country began cracking down on the distribution of the meth precursor PSE. So now the practice of “smurfing,” buying the legal limit in PSE across adjacent pharmacies, is again becoming prevalent in Southwest states like California. And for that, there is already a solution that would maintain OTC access to legitimate cold sufferers — the electronic logbook.