Ga. bill would enforce limits on purchases of medicine used in meth

Lawmakers are pushing legislation they hope will help the state better enforce limits on the sale of products containing pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in allergy medicine that is also used to make methamphetamine.

House Bill 588 would provide supermarket and independent pharmacies with an electronic system to deter purchases of pseudoephedrine products to make meth. State Rep. Valerie Clark, R-Lawrenceville, the bill’s sponsor, told a House committee that 32 states already use similar systems, including all those surrounding Georgia.

“There is no change in the amount of pseudoephedrine that can be purchased,” Clark said. “Nine grams per month is the limit in this bill. Nine grams per month was the limit already enforced.”

The representative said the limit “allows an individual to take a pill per day of the maximum daily dose” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends while giving consumers some leeway. The FDA recommends consumers not intake more than 7.2 grams of pseudoephedrine in a 30-day period.

The electronic system that HB 588 proposes would record the buyer’s information and enforce the purchasing limit of the substance. The system would generate an alert if a purchase exceeds a buyer’s legal limit.

“Folks come to Georgia, and they’re visiting our state with the sole intent of purchasing pseudoephedrine products for the purpose of making meth,” Clark said. The representative said the system’s database would connect to those in other states to ensure people do not exceed the legal purchasing limit elsewhere.

Clark said the electronic system would speed purchases of pseudoephedrine products. Pharmacies that do not currently use the system rely on “paper logs and handwritten entries” to record buyers’ information.

“The beauty of the electronic system is that the customer does not have to input the information again,” Clark said. “They are already in the system. When they return, they simply have to show their license as they already do now.”

The input process takes “about three minutes” the first time consumers use it. Clark said the system would “help the honest customer” and pharmacists to expedite the transaction.

CVS Pharmacy and similar retailers already use the electronic system. Clark said the cost of the system keeps supermarket and independent pharmacies from using it.

Clark’s bill proposes that manufacturers of medications containing pseudoephedrine pay for the electronic system. Under the bill, the manufacturers would offer the system free of charge to the state, pharmacies and law enforcement.

Attempts to contact the lobbyist for one of the major companies that makes products with pseudoephedrine were unsuccessful.

Supermarket pharmacies are among those who would receive the electronic system free of charge under Clark’s proposal.

Kathy Kuzava, the president of the Georgia Food Industry Association, said the organization is “grateful” that Clark “worked so hard to further strengthen the system retailers use to help in the fight against meth.”

Clark said Georgia’s meth problem “has increased greatly” in recent years. She cited the 2011 case of a Lilburn mother who was sentenced to 30 years in prison after a meth lab explosion in her home killed her three children.

J. Terry Norris, the executive director of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, said the bill could be “potentially useful in the fight against drugs.”

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