By Delegate Don Perdue
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The white noise being generated by major drug companies and retailers surrounding the issue of prescription pseudoephedrine (PSE) has reached a decibel range that in 16 years as a legislator I have never seen.
Is it that these large corporate concerns have the best interests of West Virginians to heart? Is it that doctors and clinicians think open access to this drug is a compelling patient need? Is it that personal liberties are being challenged to the extent that (somehow) our ability to own firearms is at risk? Is it that only those citizens in counties where the meth labs are proliferating are being damaged financially? Is it that (again, somehow) spending time with a prescriber once a year is more difficult than going through all the current hoops to purchase the drug over the counter?
The answers being pummeled into the consciousness of West Virginians are delivered at high volume and high frequency. But as half-truths. It really depends on which "half" you believe.
PSE is a cheap drug enhanced into great expense by an undeserved reputation. A reputation that is making billions of dollars for a drug industry that absolutely knows how much of it used to create toxic, expensive and dangerous labs. A drug industry whose mission to make life more abundant has somehow morphed into a corporate mindset where that abundance may only be delivered in a poisonous cloud of greed.
All of the erroneous charts, studies and suppositions being offered as defense of that greed pale next to the one salient fact that, granting the new technology available in products that are resistant to diversion, no one in West Virginia -- anywhere -- will have to get a prescription for pseudoephedrine. Only those products that can be diverted easily and cheaply in the back seat of a car on a school parking lot, or in a neighbor's house, or an apartment complex or next to a child's bedroom, will be required the added safety measure of required prescription.
Of itself PSE is not now nor has it ever been a drug that can be used chronically absent a physician's intervention. The package insert asserts it and decades of use has proven it. A prescription drug until 1976, it only gained its fame as the gold standard for decongestion after it was put behind the counter. As a pharmacist for 35 years I can tell you when that happened. America's perception of that "standard" was secured. Because it was kept "back there," it simply had to be better. I warrant that now the Big Pharma opponents of Senate Bill 6 are using that undeserved (but unalterable) reputation to suggest the sky will fall.
In Oregon and Mississippi (the two states that have already done so), moving PSE to prescription saw no falling sky, no massive costs, no public outcry. What they saw was a dramatic decrease in the number of toxic labs. The number of burn patients admitted after a fire or explosion and the number of first responders and police threatened when they responded to the scene, either to investigate or gather up the victims.
I hope my fellow legislators in the House are not frightened by the volume or misled by the rhetoric. I pray that simple logic cannot be purchased and corrupted by millions spent in advertising and robo-calls. I believe, no matter how deafened we may be by the roar of lobbyists defending a pride of fat cats, West Virginians can still see.
Perdue, D-Wayne, is chairman of the House Health Committee.