Senate committee votes to restrict cold medicines

By Roger Alford

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Feb. 16 2012 1:23 p.m. MST

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Despite objections from cold and allergy sufferers, a legislative committee approved a measure Thursday that would allow medications to treat those symptoms that are now sold over-the-counter to be restricted to people with prescriptions.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-5 Thursday to pass the contentious legislation aimed at curbing methamphetamine production by limiting access to popular medications like Advil Cold & Sinus, Allegra D, Claritin-D, Mucinex-D and Sudafed. The bill now goes to the full Senate where its chances are uncertain.

Lawmakers have been debating over the past year about whether to restrict sales of certain medications that contain pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in meth, an illegal drug that's being widely abused in Kentucky and elsewhere.

A similar proposal cleared the Judiciary Committee last year but was never brought up for a vote by the full Senate.

Senate Republican Floor Leader Robert Stivers II said Thursday he doesn't know if the measure has enough support to survive a floor vote.

Elizabeth Funderburk, a spokeswoman for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, called the committee's vote "a loss for families and workers who depend on these medicines for immediate relief."

Stivers said the legislation is intended to attack a problem, not consumers.

"This problem costs lives," he said. "It's real."

Stivers and Republican Sen. Tom Jensen have pressed hard to get the legislation through the General Assembly. On Thursday, they tried to put a human face on the issue by displaying graphic photographs of people hurt by meth. One showed a pale, sickly young woman ravaged by meth abuse. Another was of a hospitalized woman badly burned in a meth explosion.

Stivers said the legislation, if passed into law, won't solve the entire meth problem, but he contends it would slow it down.

"I don't know if we have the votes in the chamber that's needed to pass it," Stivers said. "If we do, I'd be grateful."

Consumers have vocally opposed the measure. Pat Davis, wife of U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis, testified before the Judicial Committee earlier this year to urge lawmakers not to force people to go to the doctor for a prescription every time they have runny noses or itchy eyes.

Funderburk called Thursday for lawmakers not to pass the legislation but to look instead at measures that would target criminals, not consumers.

"It does not stop meth abuse and will unnecessarily punish the Kentucky families who rely upon these popular, safe and legal nonprescription cold and allergy medicines for relief," she said.

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The legislation is Senate Bill 50.

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