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Families Flood Capital, Decongestant RX Bill Advances

PHOTO: Cody Nicholas of Clay County brought his sons Jamie and Brian to the State Capitol for Kids and Families Day Tuesday, the same day as one of the bills backed by the day's organizers cleared a tough committee. PHOTO by Dan Heyman
PHOTO: Cody Nicholas of Clay County brought his sons Jamie and Brian to the State Capitol for Kids and Families Day Tuesday, the same day as one of the bills backed by the day's organizers cleared a tough committee. PHOTO by Dan Heyman
February 5, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Between 600 and 800 children, parents and allies flooded the West Virginia Capitol on Tuesday for Kids and Families Day, and one of the bills the day's organizers were pressing cleared a tough committee.

The Senate Health panel passed SB 6, requiring a prescription for decongestants such as Sudafed that can be a key part of cooking meth.

Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha County, said his colleagues on the committee seem more willing to listen to public pressure for the bill this year. Part of the reason, he said, is that tamper-resistant decongestants now are on the market.

"I think a lot of people feel more comfortable with this concept because there is a belief that there're other Sudafed products out there that are widely available, that are not as easily diverted to meth use," Palumbo said.

Palumbo said the states that have moved to require a prescription for the decongestants have seen a more than 70 percent fall in the number of meth labs that police find. Given that, Sen. Ron Miller, D-Greenbrier County, said the fact that his constituents can get the tamper-resistant alternative was enough.

"I represent a rural area," he said. "I want to make sure that there's something available and it's readily available. If we have an alternative and it's a good alternative, I have to trouble moving on with this."

A similar bill failed last year, under intense opposition from drug makers and marketers. Observers say the issue is likely to be one of the hardest fought in this year's legislative session. Opponents say requiring prescriptions would deny law-abiding citizens access to the medicine.

Even with the tamper-resistant alternatives, Palumbo said, it's going to be a struggle to get the law enacted.

"There's such strong opposition from the manufacturers of these medications that want to keep selling these products that it's not going to be easy to get this all the way through the process," he said.

Kids and Families Day was organized by the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition.

The bill now moves to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Check the status of SB 6 at legis.state.wv.us.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV