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Tar Heel State to renew PSE Rx-only debate in two years


RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina may be two years away from joining Oregon and Mississippi as the only states to classify pseudoepehdrine as a prescription-only medicine.

A bill shepherded through the North Carolina legislature by the co-chair of that state's House Select Committee on Methamphetamine Abuse sets the stage for a PSE prescription-only classification in 2013. The bill, which today mandates implementation of an electronic tracking system through the National Precursor Log Exchange, was passed in June and goes into effect Jan. 1. NPLEx potentially helps identify meth labs.

According to Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union County, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation had predicted the state would respond to more than 400 meth incidents this year, at a cost of $350,000 per incident. "That means that we will spend about $140 million to just deal with meth just this year," Horn wrote in a June blog. "We simply do not have the money, the jail space or the court time, and that does not account for innocent lives destroyed as a result of this terribly addictive drug. There are many more productive uses for our revenues [other] than chasing this stuff."

"My bill will mirror what has been done in Oregon and Mississippi and return pseudoephedrine — the one absolutely necessary ingredient to make methamphetamine — to prescription-only status," he continued. "The fears of inconvenience and increased costs did NOT bear out in the two states that have already done this." 

"The prescription mandate imposes time and financial burdens on more than 20 million Americans [nationwide] who rely on these medicines without solving the meth problem," the Consumer Healthcare Products Association wrote in its 2011 annual report. CHPA member companies bear the cost of launching and managing NPLEx in each state where it's implemented. The association noted in its report that not one state had passed a PSE prescription-only bill in 2011, in great part due to those burdens that restriction would place on consumers.

In October, Horn wrote, "The House Select Committee of Methamphetamine Abuse will oversee the implementation of House Bill 12. … [T]his committee is also authorized to recommend action to the Legislature on the larger issues of both prescription and nonprescription drug abuse in North Carolina."

The committee has been tasked with studying the implementation of the NPLEx act, including the number of methamphetamine labs that are discovered annually and the potential costs of making pseudoephedrine products Schedule III controlled substances. The final report is due before North Carolina's General Assembly in 2013.

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