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State Drug Warriors Want Prescription Requirement for Sudafed [FEATURE]

Over-the-counter (OTC) cold medicine consumers in a number of states could become unwilling participants in the perpetual war against methamphetamine as legislators consider bills that would require prescriptions for OTC preparations containing pseudoephedrine, a precursor chemical used in meth manufacture. But the moves are raising alarm bells among some economists and the OTC industry, which is touting its own electronic tracking system as an alternative.

By prescription only? Maybe in Kentucky, Nevada, and Tennessee.
The sale of OTCs containing pseudoephedrine, such as Sudafed, is already restricted under the federal Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act, which went into effect in 2006. That act requires that such preparations be kept behind the counter, that customers must present ID, that purchases be entered into a logbook accessible to law enforcement, and that purchases be limited to 3.6 grams per day or 9 grams every 30 days.

A number of states have enacted their own precursor tracking laws, and they were at least temporarily effective at reducing the number of meth labs. But as the Associated Press recently reported, those laws are increasingly ineffective, as meth producers enlist armies of "smurfs" to purchase products containing pseudoephedrine within legal limits, then pay them black market prices for their cold pills.

Two states -- Oregon and Mississippi -- have enacted laws required prescriptions for such products and are able to point at reductions in meth lab busts as an indicator they are working. Oregon reported that meth lab busts dropped from 190 in 2005 to 12 in 2009.

Now, legislators in at least three states -- Kentucky, Nevada, and Tennessee -- want to enact similar prescription laws. The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), which represents the multi-billion dollars OTC industry, is fighting back, and it's not alone in criticizing the measures.

"This is just stupid," said Jeffrey Tucker, an economist at the libertarian-leaning Ludwig von Mises Institute and a long-time critic of what he calls the "War on Sudafed." "It hurts innocent people and rewards the dealers. Requiring prescriptions for Sudafed will just increase the buy-sell spread between the retail price and the street price and provide an even greater incentive for people to traffic. Lawmakers may want to stop meth production, but it's not going to work. If lawmakers could snap their fingers and make everybody lead a good, healthy life, I'm sure they would, but they can't."

Not only are the efforts to control pseudoephedrine counterproductive, they also harm millions of innocent consumers, Tucker said. He pointed to the effects of already existing restrictions on purchases.

"Before the restrictions kicked in, people were buying it to make meth, but meth usage wasn't any worse when President Bush began this than it was a decade earlier," said Tucker. "It wasn't exactly a big crisis. Only after the restrictions did meth become a major national problem, because it then became an incredibly profitable enterprise. It was now scarce, producers had reason to involve even more people, and they could afford to do so. Now, there are large communities involved in collecting Sudafed to make meth, and there is a strong incentive for producers to find even larger markets. The whole thing has backfired," he said.

If governments insist on continuing down the path of trying to repress meth production by restricting access to precursors like pseudoephedrine, then requiring prescriptions is the logical next step, said Tucker.

"But that won't work either, because anyone can go to the clinic and get a prescription, but now the stuff will be worth its weight in gold. This is a classic case of a bad policy backfiring, with many innocent victims. There is just no end to this. We keep increasing the misery and the coercion in the name of the drug war, and it doesn’t help the drug war."

While Tucker questions the whole logic of drug prohibition, the CHPA accepts that logic, but is seeking to minimize harm to its members who peddle the remedies, as well as the tens of millions of consumers who use them to fend off cold and allergy symptoms. Those consumers face having to go and pay for doctor's visits in order to get something they are currently able to buy by walking up to a counter.

The CHPA is pushing NPLEx, an industry-funded, real-time, electronic tracking system. The system is already in place in 12 states, including Kentucky, where the CHPA says it is blocking the sale of about 10,000 grams a month of pseudoephedrine.

"NPLEx is the better alternative to prescription status for PSE [pseudoepehedrine] that results in no new barriers to consumers, imposes no new costs on the healthcare system, allows the state to keep sales taxes generated by OTC PSE sales, meets the law enforcement goal of preventing illegal sales of PSE, and is provided to states and retailers at no charge," the association argues.

But that's not stopping lawmakers, prodded by law enforcement, from proposing the precursor prescription bills. In Kentucky, the bill is HB 15 (with identical companion bill SB 45); in Nevada, Sen. Sheila Leslie (D-Reno) will push an as yet un-filed prescription bill, and in Tennessee, lawmakers are likely to file both a prescription bill and a competing electronic tracking bill in the next few days.

For economist Tucker, lawmakers are engaged in quixotic, fruitless, and even counterproductive effort. "There are 50 different ways to make meth, and the drugs get ever more dangerous," he said. "Meth is a dreadfully dangerous drug anyway, but when you relegate it to amateurs cooking it at stoplights, it's catastrophic."

America loves its stimulants, as a glance at any Starbucks filled with happy caffeine-guzzlers or convenience store aisle lined with "energy drink" products will demonstrate. Perhaps instead of trying to repress methamphetamine, we could try to regulate it. But that's a very hard sell for what is arguably the most demonized of America's demon drugs.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!

dislikes stopthedrugwar!

dislikes stopthedrugwar! bunch of f'in idiots are gonna get high no matter what...quit diggin' in my pockets!!!!

You are welcome to your opinion

We welcome dissenting views, but your point is lost when you resort to name calling and accusing us of committing crimes against you.

I am personally not an idiot.  I am an Application programmer making 300K+ a year, and I vaporize my cannabis 2-4 times a week to relax.  No hangover or porcelain god worshipping in the morning if I over indulge either.

Drug war prohibition laws are an infringement on my personal civil rights.  Therefore, I ignore them, and in doing so, harm absolutely nobody.

Health care


  There can be a difference between what you and a health insurance company consider healthy. Some insurers will say that you have a health condition if you smoke, are overweight, are taking prescriptions, or had a medical condition in the past. If this describes you, you may want to search and read “Wise Health Insurance” on the web.


This is spam.  We get this crap in our daily online newspaper daily. 

morons running our world

our moron-fool leaders have been outed by Assange.   incredibly however, that doesn't make them to look in the mirror.   the ONLY thing that will put the brakes on their stupidity is when they run out tax dollar funding.    if they ran a business like they run our country, they'd have gone bankrupt in the first month.   "conservatives" they are NOT.

Sudafed prescription?!

Jeffrey Tucker has other articles relating to Sudafed restrictions. If interested, check out and go to author archives.


There is a difference between growing marijuana and the production of meth... If my neighbor wants to grow weed in his basement, I am in no risk of anything dangerous happening. But, if my neighbor wants to cook meth, I am in danger of inhaling toxic fumes and there is always the possibility of a fire or explosion... legalize (or decriminalize) marijuana and put more money towards stopping the people who produce meth and who put myself, my child, and others at risk due to the way that stupid, nasty, drug is produced... I have no problem going to the doctor to get sudafed if I really need it...there are other ways to relieve the symptoms of a cold other than pills but I can't make anybody look into other options- anyways meth production is a violation of my rights until the day it is legalized and produced in a factory- then I have the option of living by that factory or not...there will never be peace in the war on drugs...everybody has so many opinions on what is right and wrong...

More information

Nice article. In the future if you could clearly state which politician is pushing the new legislation, I would greatly appreciate it. I am a registered voter and a Pseudoephedrine user, I will be writing a letter to the appropriate party.


My brother-in-law recently received a summons in which they stated that he bought too much Sudafed.  This is absolutely ridiculous.  My brother-in-law has never had drug charges in his life.  He is the sole provider for his family in which he has an autistic son.  It just so happens that both his wife and daughter have sinus problems.  His wife of course lives with him and his daughter is down at DePauw University, so he had to buy enough for both of them.  I am so mad, I could just spit.  When he went to his court date, the judge (who previously tried to commit suicide by blowing out her brains) would not let him talk to the prosecutor without a lawyer to which, I may add, he cannot afford.  To top this all off, they are currently trying to find another home as the home they are currently renting is going up for sale and the place where he works may be going out on strike.  The moronic cop who pressed charges against him should have at least asked him what was going on and once the cop checked the computer for any previous drug charges and saw that there were none, should have given him the benefit of the doubt.  My god, what is happening to this country?  If my brother-in-law goes to jail, he will most likely lose everything he has.  There has to be a way for innocent people to protect themselves.  It should have never even gotten this far to begin with.  Once again, I am so mad, I could just spit!!!!!

Wal-Mart in Arkansas won't sell Sudafed without a prescription

My husband is an allergy sufferer and uses Sudafed, moderately, I might add, to help. He tried to buy some today at a Wal-Mart in Conway, AR and was told he had to have a prescription. The lady said it had been in 'effect' since July 2011. In searching the AR Pharmacy Board website, we found out this is not a law. A state legislator tried to get it into law, but it was never voted on.

Now Wal-Mat in this state has evidently decided to make their own laws. We moved here 18 months ago and have been appalled at the level of poverty, crime and underemployment in the state, but this is by far the worst thing we have encountered to date.

Wal-mart makes their own rules

I discovered this today--that as of July 27, 2011, Wal-mart will not sell Sudafed (or the generic equivalent) in the State of Arkansas without a prescription.

There is no law on the book in Arkansas that mandates this.  It appears that Wal-mart took this "initiative" themselves.

As a retailer, they can decided which products they will and will not sell.  But how can they require a medical doctor's prescription before they will sell me Sudafed, which is legal for me to buy without a prescription?  

What is next?  I'll need a prescription to purchase tobacco?  beer?  wine?  These are all substances that have government controls in place.  Why not require prescriptions for these as well?

Due to this travesty, I have decided not to do any further business with Wal-mart.  There are alternatives--even here in Arkansas.

Please post where people can

Please post where people can buy sudafed. I have so much pressure built up, I cannot stand it. I have to get my prescriptions by mail and Walgreens wont sell the sudafed to me because I dont get my prescriptions at their pharmacy. I do go in that Walgreens at least a few times a month to buy other items- not anymore!


This whole limit is so ridiculous to begin with! Is there something wrong with COMMON SENSE? If some idiot comes to the checkout with a 100 boxes of pseudoephedrine then, um, maybe the store shouldn't sell it to them. I have to take these pills to make it through the day during allergy season. So does my child. Unfortunately, due to these stupid laws, I cannot purchase enough quantity for both myself and my kid at one time (a month's supply of pills and infant drops - are ya kiddin' me?!?). If you are stupid enough to do meth than you deserve what you get. It's called natural selection....why should we all suffer for the stupidity of a select few??? What happened to personal responsibility??????


allergy medication

I don't care if people are making meth!  I do care that I am hassled because I have reached my limit for allergy medication which my 13 yr son takes and I take so I have two weeks this month without medication and now I have to ask someone if they can buy it for me?!! This is ridiculous!!! I don't want a prescription from a doctor just to get allergy medication this country has gone in the wrong direction

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