The Missouri House of Representatives is taking another look at legislation that would make Sudafed available by prescription only.

Proponents of a bill sponsored by freshman Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, say it will greatly reduce the problem of methamphetamine in Missouri.

The active ingredient in Sudafed, pseudoephedrine, is the main active ingredient in meth. Addicts buy the medicine in bulk, traveling from pharmacy to pharmacy to skirt state regulations aimed at stopping bulk purchases. The state is annually either first or second in the number of meth operations in the country.

Opponents of the bill say cold and allergy sufferers should not be punished for the actions of a few drug addicts. They say making Sudafed a prescription-only medication will force people to go to a doctor, paying for a visit for a medicine that is readily available now, albeit from behind a pharmacist's counter.

And ever since this legislation first surfaced in 2007, the opposition has been triumphant.

It was in that year that former Reps. Scott Lipke, R-Jackson, and Scott Roorda, D-Jefferson County, sponsored legislation that would declare pseudoephedrines as a Schedule III narcotic, available only by prescription. The pair hosted a standing room only committee hearing in the House basement, taking several hours of testimony from law enforcement officials, physicians and even reformed addicts on the dangers of meth and the need to make the precursor chemicals less available. The committee eventually voted overwhelmingly to pass the bill on to the House floor.

Publicly, Lipke, the chairman of the committee, was upbeat about the bill's chances. Privately, he confessed, he never stood a chance. He said powerful business interests in the Capitol were working against him, and he realized the bill would never reach the floor. Lipke was correct.

The bill languished for years, only rarely receiving committee hearings. An attempt to add the legislation to another bill on the House floor last year failed with less than 40 representatives voting for the amendment.

But Schatz revived interest in the bill this year, and on Wednesday, he trotted out an impressive list of county sheriffs, narcotic investigators and prosecuting attorneys in a hearing before the House Committee on Crime Prevention and Public Safety. Once again, the hearing room in the Capitol basement was too small for the audience, and a two-hour time limit was far too short to accommodate all who had come to speak for and against the legislation.

Sheriff John Jordan of Cape Girardeau County called efforts by the state to stop methamphetamine trafficking, manufacturing and use over the last decade "pathetic."

"Out of the $22 million we have dispersed through the MoSMART program to fight methamphetamine labs in Missouri, $20 million of it came from the 'feds'," said Jordan.
$2 million of it came from the state over the last ten years. That's pretty pathetic."

"If you make pseudoephedrine a controlled substance, you will see a huge reduction in the amount of meth labs in the state immediately."

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