Study: Prescription-only PSE laws have no impact on number of meth labs, meth abusers

PORTLAND, Ore. — Prescription-only pseudoephedrine regulation has no impact on the methamphetamine trade, according to a Cascade Policy Institute study on the 2005 Oregon law, which restricts access to medicines containing pseudoephedrine.

“This study affirms what we predicted over six years ago: The law would not significantly curb meth use or production, but it would impose a considerable burden on legitimate users of cold and allergy medicines like Claritin-D and Sudafed,” said Steve Buckstein, Cascade’s senior policy analyst. “With other state and federal lawmakers considering following Oregon’s lead on this issue, we thought it was critical to find out what has actually happened here since the law went into effect.”

"Cascade's findings are significant because a number of states around the country are looking to Oregon to decide whether their prescription mandate model is worth replicating," Consumer Healthcare Products Association president and CEO Scott Melville said. "This study shows that in addition to increased costs for individuals, lost productivity for businesses and restricted access to popular and reliable cold and allergy medicines, prescription requirements do not effectively reduce methamphetamine's overall impact on a given state."

According to the study, the prescription requirement for cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine had no more of an impact on the reduction of meth lab incidents than other measures adopted in neighboring states. The rate of mobile meth lab reductions in Oregon is nearly identical to that of six neighboring and nearby states that do not have a prescription requirement. "Moreover, meth addicts in Oregon can still get access to their drug of choice,” Buckstein added. “Overall, our study raises fundamental questions about the effectiveness of Oregon’s law and whether such a prescription mandate — which impacts all consumers in the state — is warranted.”

Key findings of the study:

  • Law enforcement in Oregon report that methamphetamine remains the state’s greatest drug threat, despite the reduction in in-state meth production, and contributes the most toward drug-related crime;

  • Methamphetamine lab incidents in Oregon declined more than 90% between 2004 and 2010. Most of this decline occurred before the prescription-only law went into effect in 2006;

  • Six neighboring states, including Washington and California, experienced similar declines in meth lab reductions without imposing a prescription requirement during the same time frame;

  • The number of methamphetamine admissions to substance abuse centers in Oregon declined about 23% from 2006 to 2009, the exact same rate as the rest of the United States. Usage was slightly higher in California at 29% and slightly lower in Washington at 20%; and

  • Legitimate users of pseudoephedrine in Oregon incur additional costs as a result of this law, because it requires a doctor visit to get Sudafed and similar products that are available over-the-counter in 48 other states. Some of these additional costs also are borne by all taxpayers who fund government healthcare programs.

According to the Cascade Policy Institute, the report’s findings are consistent with studies conducted by other independent groups, such as Oregon’s High Intensity Drug Area, which reported: “Methamphetamine continues to be highly available and widely used throughout the HIDTA region and remains the most serious drug threat to Oregon.” CPI cited the "Threat Assessment & Counter-Drug Strategy 2011 Oregon High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Report" current as of Sept. 26, 2011.

For the full Cascade Policy Institute study, click here.


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