In our last article, we have seen that law enforcement officers are clearly in favor of a law that would require a doctor’s prescription to purchase ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, as these substances are used as precursors of methamphetamine. The alternative solution would be to track all sales of ephedrine through the nationwide precursor database called NPLEX, blocking in real-time sales of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine that go over the legal limit.
But according to cops, NPLEX does nothing to curb meth labs. As you may remember, their main arguments were the following:
- Meth cooks are paying smurfers who buy ephedrine until their legal limit and eventually go to neighboring states when a prescription is required in their state.
- Fixing a monthly limit means that meth cooks are still able to buy ephedrine legally before they get blocked, enough to cook meth.
- NPLEX doesn’t help cops to act in a preventive way by identifying potential trafficking patterns in advance.
- Cops say also that NPLEX is even adding an administrative burden on their job, they are overwhelmed with confusing data that doesn’t help.
This is one point of view, and US politicians have to consider all points before making decisions. So now it is time to see what are the arguments of the opponents of prescription for ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. The most concerned people are the ones affected by cold, flu, allergies and asthma, as they are the frequent buyers of pseudoephedrine, either from time to time as during the allergy season, or on a regular basis as for asthma. So it’s no surprise that the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) conducted a national survey in July 2010 among 2,000 adults who purchased ephedrine or pseudoephedrine as non-prescription medications for allergy, cold, flu or asthma at least once during the preceding year. In a nutshell: more than 70% of the population oppose laws which would require a prescription for their common medications based on ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. We will now detail their arguments.
First, let us give you an idea of the stakes here:
- More than 70 million get the flu each year.
- Up to 300 million people get the common cold annually.
- 60 million people suffer from allergies and asthma and for these people, getting a cold or flu presents high risks.
Why do most people oppose so strongly a prescription mandate for ephedrine or pseudoephedrine? Here are the main reasons.
Effectiveness of ephedrine
First of all, people want to stick to ephedrine and pseudoephedrine for effectiveness: they find that only pseudoephedrine is able to relieve their congestion. This is very well known to doctors: ephedrine used as bronchodilator has amazing long lasting effects, compared to other medications. This is the amazing power of alkaloids, given by Nature, without patent, we suggest that you refer to our dedicated article about alkaloids to learn more about other medical applications.
Next to effectiveness, most people are concerned by the cost for them that a doctor’s prescription would represent. At a national level, no doubt that such laws would broadly increase the cost of health, which would make little sense in the current political debate. People would have a co-pay due to the doctor’s visit, and many of them have a high deductible. For instance, here is the health insurance coverage of the people who took part to the survey: 65% through private insurance, 18% through public insurance, other 7% and no coverage 15%. Most people consider that a prescription for their medications based on pseudoephedrine and ephedrine would be an undue burden on the uninsured and on law abiding citizens.
In a large majority, people are convinced that laws requiring prescriptions for ephedrine would not be effective at curbing meth labs. In some way, it would mean that law abiding citizens would be punished for a minority of drug addicts. They are sure that people who are already breaking the law would not be stopped by another law, they would just find a workaround, even if ephedrine or pseudoephedrine were totally illegal and withdrawn from the market, other trafficking networks would appear automatically. The only point that you could take for granted would be the burden and the cost put on honest citizens.
NPLEX alternate solution
Another argument of opponents of prescription is that another solution exists: NPLEX is already is use and would be more effective than prescription if law enforcement officers would just accept it and try to get the best of it, instead of opposing a psychological resistance to change. 66% of patients think that this modern, real-time tracking system would be a better choice than a prescription mandate.
American patients have sent a clear message to their political representatives, supported by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, a highly respectable organization which can’t be suspected of any hidden agenda in that debate: requiring prescriptions for their medications based on ephedrine and pseudoephedrine would not be a solution to the meth problem, it would be an unfair burden on the uninsured and on honest people. Millions of patients rely on pseudoephedrine and ephedrine and would prefer alternate solutions like NPLEX that don’t require a prescription mandate.
US politicians heard the message apparently: patients are also voters, and in many states their point of view is winning over the lobbying of law enforcement officers. Probably because one patient’s vote is just equal to one cop’s vote, and there are more patients than cops in most US states
By Mike Budd