Oklahoma's 27 district attorneys asked lawmakers Monday for the “political courage” to stand up against pharmaceutical companies and require prescriptions for the decongestant drugs that are used by cold sufferers but also can be cooked in labs to make methamphetamine.
“These labs are causing fires, chaos and devastation in our great state, and it's killing innocent people,” said District Attorney Greg Mashburn, of Cleveland, McClain and Garvin counties. “We desperately need to make the key ingredient in this dangerous drug a prescription.”
Several bills proposed in the state Legislature this session deal with limiting and tracking medications with pseudoephedrine, including decongestant drugs such as Claritin-D, Mucinex and Sudafed. Last week, one of those bills — Senate Bill 1276 — was defeated in a tie vote in committee, prompting the state's top prosecutors to gather together in support of the measures.
Drugs containing pseudoephedrine are cooked in labs across the nation to create methamphetamine. Oregon and Mississippi have passed laws requiring a doctor's prescription for medications containing pseudoephedrine.
“There is no methamphetamine made in Oklahoma without pseudoephedrine — period,” said Eddie Wyant, district attorney for Delaware and Ottawa counties.
Over the years, lawmakers have whittled away at the availability of pseudoephedrine, removing it from grocery stores and gas stations, tracking sales and putting it behind the pharmaceutical counter.
Meth lab cooks have found ways around those laws, most recently through smurfing — paying groups of people to buy drugs with pseudoephedrine in small amounts at numerous stores to get around tracking.
The Oklahoma State Medical Association, the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association and the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians all are opposed to requiring prescriptions for pseudoephedrine. In part because they say it will increase the number of doctor visits and keep a safe medicine out of some people's hands.
Last year, there were about 900 meth labs uncovered in Oklahoma, and the vast majority of those were in northeast Oklahoma — more than 400 in Tulsa County alone.
Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, said the geographic concentration of meth labs in her region is partly why her bill requiring a prescription for the tablet forms of pseudoephedrine was defeated in committee.
“We're so passionate about it in eastern Oklahoma because we feel like we're just bleeding out of our pores,” David said.
“They don't feel that same sense of urgency here in Oklahoma City. The senators who voted against it were Oklahoma City senators.”Read HB 2375 Read SB 1276