An op-ed article from the New York Times tilted “How to Kill the Meth Monster” written by a colleague of mine, Rob Bovett, district attorney in Lincoln County, Oregon, was recently released. Rob and I also serve as advisory board members for ONDCP’s National Methamphetamine and Pharmaceutical Initiative (CMPI). We have been traveling around the country assisting states contemplating the implementation of policy that would return pseudoephedrine (PSE) to its prescription status that existed prior to 1976. Oregon has five years of remarkable data touting its success and now Mississippi has become the second state to pass such legislation and the preliminary results are equally promising.
Last year we (the CA Attorney General's Office) introduced SB 484 seeking to make products containing PSE a prescription medication. SB 484 passed the Senate, but stalled in Assembly Public Safety by one vote. Needless to say, the pharmaceutical industry saw California as its most critical battleground state and invested significant resources to defeat SB 484. Big Pharma’s attack dog was the Consumer Healthcare Product Association (CHPA). Although Big Pharma has long opposed even electronic registry and tracking of PSE consumers, once SB 484 passed the Senate, Big Pharma made us an offer they hoped we couldn’t refuse: Big Pharma offered to pay for electronic tracking not only in California, but anywhere else in the U.S. where it’s needed. Since I had spent months prior proving that electronic tracking doesn’t work, we politely declined to kill SB 484. I have learned that the first clue that a policy won’t work is the fact Big Pharma supports it — they will not do anything that can potentially cut into their bottom-line. PSE sales are estimated to be a billion dollar a year industry and the biggest market is in California.
We at the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement (BNE) estimate that at least half of the PSE sold in California is diverted to make meth. That means the majority of Big Pharma’s PSE customers are crooks who are poisoning our citizens and environment, and endangering our children. I suspect most heard about the recent CVS settlement with DOJ regarding CVS’ knowingly selling PSE to meth cooks. That settlement, the largest in history, was $75 million dollars. A mere drop in the bucket for CVS and Big Pharma — it’s simply the cost of doing business.
We are introducing another bill this upcoming legislative session and we will need the collective efforts of a broad-based coalition to be successful — just as occurred with the defeat of Prop 19. I have a large amount of documents we have compiled on this subject and most of it can be viewed at Oregondec.org.
— Kent Shaw, assistant chief CA Attorney General's Office, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement