Could better technology stop meth cooks?
Nearly 3 of 4 Oklahoma doctors use a state program designed to stop doctor-shopping addicts. What about the other 1 in 4? This summer, I wrote about the fifth anniversary of a state program that is designed to curb prescription addicts. The Prescription Monitoring Program has gained popularity, but it doesn’t stop everyone. Now a state legislator is bringing up the idea of a similar program as a way to potentially curb meth manufacturing. Here’s a column written by State Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso. Very interesting.
Methamphetamine abuse is a serious problem in Oklahoma. As policymakers, we need to find ways to curb meth production and use; we need to find ways that are targeted, cost-effective and have real impact. In looking at the range of weapons available in the war on meth, states have employed a variety of tactics. I have spent some time looking into these options and want to share a few of my thoughts on real-time, stop-sale system versus a prescription mandate.
Solutions to the meth problem should be targeted. They should focus on the people responsible for the problem. Some states – like Oregon and Mississippi – have tackled the meth issue by requiring a prescription for all products containing pseudoephedrine (PSE), the active ingredient in many common cold and allergy products, as well as a key ingredient in the manufacturing of meth. I believe this mandate is unfair to the law-abiding citizens and cold and allergy sufferers who depend on these products to fight colds and allergies.
The prescription mandate also fails the cost-effective test. Requiring a doctor’s prescription to treat the common cold will drive up health care costs and fill up waiting rooms preventing the truly sick from being seen by a doctor in a timely manner. Between hours lost at work and the additional cost of the prescription and the co-pay, having the common cold could be very expensive.
Oklahoma was the national leader in developing a computer system to stop the illegal purchase of PSE products. Several other states are now working together to attack meth by using a national computerized system named the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx). It prevents illegal sales of products containing PSE in the state and across state lines and notifies law enforcement in real-time when improper purchases have been attempted. Computer tracking systems don’t inconvenience law-abiding patients; it stops people purchasing PSE for illegal use. Texas, Kansas, Missouri and Louisiana all have approved the NPLEx system and by 2012 all four of these states will have implemented this technology. If Oklahoma also links with NPLEx, all of these systems would work together to give law enforcement across this entire region the tools they need to track illegal activity.
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