In an ongoing battle against methamphetamine use, July 1 a state law will go into effect making all products containing pseudoephedrine, ephedrine and phenylpropanolamine available only by prescription.
Pharmacists are reporting that their customers are not happy. “Some people are upset because they either don’t want to have to get a prescription for their current over-the-counter allergy medication or try the reformulated products with phenylephrine,” said Kerri Nelson, a pharmacist with Home Care I.V. of Bend.
Kerri Nelson, Pharmacist Home Care I.V. of Bend
Phenylephrine is the drug being used in place of pseudoephedrine. “Some say it works great, others say it doesn’t work for them at all,” she added.
At the heart of the matter is methamphetamines; some of the most widely abused controlled substances in Oregon, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). “Pseudoephedrine is one of the main ingredients required to make methamphetamines,” said Capt. Tim Edwards of the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office.
He said this is a direct effort at shutting down meth labs across the state. “We have already seen a dramatic reduction in the past three years and attribute that to the new methamphetamine precursor legislation,” Capt. Edwards said.
In fact, he says thanks to laws like pseudoephedrine being kept behind the counter; the county really can’t go much further down. “We haven’t had any meth labs in our area this year. We had one the year before, five the year before that and 22 a year before that.”
“The rest of the state is seeing bigger reductions and this new law will likely further reduce it in metropolitan areas,” Capt. Edwards said.
Despite the good news of the effectiveness of past legislation, people still are far from happy about the new law. “It is going to be difficult for some people because they can’t get by on phenylephrine,” Nelson said.
This is not the first time. She said customers complained when pharmacies began keeping pseudoephedrine behind the counter. “When people started having to sign a log they got upset,” Nelson recalled. “Anytime you make something more difficult people are going to be unhappy.”
While some people are upset by the new laws, others have mixed feelings. “I can imagine if you don’t have the money to go see a doctor to get a prescription it would be frustrating,” said 79-year-old Jo Lunsford. “At the same time I’d like to keep it out of the hands of the people using it inappropriately.”
According to information from the DEA, two varieties are generally encountered in Oregon. There are those produced locally by area violators, which has been greatly reduced. The second variety is Mexican methamphetamine, which is either manufactured locally or obtained from sources in Mexico, California and other Southwest Border states.
Of the two types, Mexican methamphetamine continues to flood the market. Methamphetamines are available in multi-pound amounts throughout western Oregon, and smaller quantities are available in Eastern Oregon.
Capt. Edwards says while this new law will help to a degree, it isn’t the final answer. “Just because the meth labs are gone doesn’t mean we have rid the area of the problem,” he said. “Our biggest meth problem is from California and Mexico. Dealers are still bringing it into the area.”
Nelson says if it helps impact the problem at all she is in support of it. “I think it is a good law even if it only helps deter one person from using meth,” she said.
“The other thing is, if you have a good rapport with your doctor you can call and ask your physician to call in a prescription,” Nelson said. However, she says that depends on how often a person goes to the doctor and the relationship the two have.
In the meantime, many stores in Central Oregon are seeing an increase in cold and allergy medicine sales. Some consumers are choosing to stock up rather than waiting until they get sick.