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Prescribing a Plan to Beat Meth

State lawmakers propose making Sudafed and similar cold medications a prescription to limit meth manufacturing.

Meth labs haven't been as big a problem in Vermont as surrounding states  and lawmakers want to make sure it stays that way.

“We're doing our best to try and prevent a crisis,” State Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington) said.

Sears and State Sen. Claire Ayer (D-Addison) are sponsors of a bill that would make cold medications with pseudoephedrine, ephedrine and phenylpropanolamine a prescription. The drugs, particularly pseudoephedrine, act as a key ingredient in manufacturing methamphetamine and the senators believe making it a prescription would keep it out of the hands of meth makers.

“There are a couple of states that have put in those laws and the rate of use of those and the methamphetamine problems they've had have dropped dramatically,” Sen. Ayer said.

But for most people Sudafed is just a quick cold remedy and it's easy to get in and get out without having to get a prescription.

“We believe this is a step in the wrong direction,” Carlos Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez is a lobbyist with the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. Last year he helped convince Vermont lawmakers to abandon the prescription plan and instead install a system called Nplex.

Nplex tracks and blocks Sudafed sales to people trying to buy an illegal amount, more than three boxes a day or seven in a month.

Gutierrez says last year, more than 1.6 million boxes were kept from being sold in the US because of Nplex.

Vermont started using the system January 1st.

“It's really worth a shot at letting the law take effect, seeing its results and seeing how it plays out,” Gutierrez said.

Experts in states that passed a prescription law say the tracking system doesn't work but that getting a prescription bill passed is a big battle with lobbyists.

“It'll be interesting to see how that rolls out here,” Sen. Ayer said.

A meeting has already been set between lobbyists and lawmakers.

Gutierrez says he plans on coming to Vermont from Washington the week of January 13th to speak with Senators Sears and Ayer on their prescription bill.

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