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Oregon Bill To Make Pseudoephedrine Easier To Buy Fails

<p>This July 19, 2010 file photo shows medications containing pseudoephedrine on display behind the counter of a pharmacy in Edmond, Okla.</p>

Sue Ogrocki

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This July 19, 2010 file photo shows medications containing pseudoephedrine on display behind the counter of a pharmacy in Edmond, Okla.

Pseudoephedrine is an efficient way for someone with a cold to get decongested.

It’s also an ingredient in methamphetamine. That’s why, in 2006, Oregon was the first state in the nation to require a prescription to buy pseudoephedrine.

But drug manufactures have since developed a computer system, NPLEx, to track purchases across 35 states, said Carlos Gutierrez with the Consumer Health Care Products Association. 

Pharmaceutical makers also pay for that system, so Oregon could use it for free, he said.

“It would limit sales to 3.6 grams in a day," Gutierrez said. "In exchange, people wouldn’t have to go to the doctor and they’d be able to buy at their local pharmacy."

He said that meth is seldom cooked in residential homes anymore. Instead, production has moved to larger facilities across the border in Mexico.

But opponents to over-the-counter sales point out that requiring prescriptions stops what’s know as "Group Smurfing." That’s when a meth cook uses a group of people to each buy up to their pseudoephedrine limit.

“You all sell that pseudoephedrine … for maybe double what you bought it for. You may have a million reasons to do that, because you’re addicted, you’re homeless, you’re a college kid, whatever,” said Rob Bovett, legal counsel for the Association of Oregon Counties.

He said that gives meth cooks a local supply, and that’s something they can’t obtain if a prescription is required.

Copyright 2019 Oregon Public Broadcasting

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Kristian Foden-Vencil is a reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting. He specializes in health care, business, politics, law and public safety.