CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A study funded by a drug industry lobbying group says legislation requiring a prescription for some cold medications used to make illegal methamphetamine would cost West Virginia and consumers $149.4 million over the next 10 years.
The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which lobbies for drug manufacturers and opposes the prescription bill, paid West Liberty University for the study.
Charleston doctor Dan Foster, who headed a Kanawha County substance abuse task force last year, criticized the report Wednesday, saying the lobbying group "cooked the books."
"This is not reality," Foster said. "What they don't acknowledge is this legislation is going to cost them a lot of money, not the state of West Virginia."
Earlier this week, the Senate passed a bill (SB6) that aims to reduce methamphetamine labs across the state by requiring a prescription for cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine, a key meth-making ingredient.
On Wednesday, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association released a 31-page report, alleging the bill would drive up health-care costs and inconvenience consumers.
The lobbying group's initial press release said the prescription requirement would cost West Virginia $247.6 million -- the same number mentioned in the final report. Later in the day, lobbyists notified the media that the actual cost to the state was $149.4 million over 10 years.
"Lawmakers should know the true costs before voting on any proposals to restrict non-prescription access to popular allergy and cold medications," said Carlos Gutierrez, a lobbyist with the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.
Foster said the legislation would save the state millions of dollars each year by lowering numerous costs -- jail, drug treatment, law enforcement, foster care and meth lab cleanup expenses.
"The vast majority of folks will not use pseudoephedrine," Foster said. "They'll use other drugs, including those exempted in the bill."
The legislation exempts so-called "tamper-resistant" pseudoephedrine products, such as Nexafed and Zephrex-D, which can't easily be used to make meth.
A West Liberty official said Wednesday the drug industry lobbying group gave the university's research foundation a "grant of $10,000 to $15,000" to complete the study. The drug trade group wouldn't disclose how much it paid the university.
The study, completed by West Liberty economics professor Serkan Catma, says a prescription law would cost West Virginia consumers $3.7 million in higher drug prices and additional doctor visits.
Catma estimated that the number of doctor visits to get a prescription for the cold medicine would increase by 78,817 per year in West Virginia, while state residents without health insurance would have to pay $1.83 million more each year for prescription medications
Catma's study also found that the state would lose $8.3 million in lost worker productivity, if employees were required to go to the doctor to get a prescription for pseudoephedrine -- sold under brand names such as Sudafed and Claritin-D.
Catma said West Virginia would lose $321,309 in sales tax revenue each year. Consumers now pay sales tax on the cold medication. Prescription purchases wouldn't be taxed.
The cost to insurance companies would increase $5 million a year, according to the study.
"In conducting this economic impact study, our mission was not to pass judgment or analyze the soundness of the policy itself, but to instead focus strictly on the costs and budget implications associated with the prescription requirement," said Catma in a prepared statement.
Only two states, Mississippi and Oregon, require a prescription for pseudoephedrine products. Several counties in Missouri also have prescription laws. Meth labs decreased sharply in those states and counties.