Trade group opposes cold med rule

CHARLESTON – An industry trade group has launched a campaign in West Virginia opposing legislation that would require prescriptions for medications containing pseudoephedrine, an ingredient that also is used illegally to make methamphetamine.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association began running ads this week on Charleston-area news websites. The group also has set up a Twitter account, a Facebook page and a website called Stop Meth, Not Meds that includes a mechanism for sending form letters to legislators, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Morrisey lobbied for drug distributors before he took office in January.

“We know families rely on cold, sinus, and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine for relief, and we provide them with a platform to voice their opposition to prescription legislation,” Elizabeth Funderburk, an association spokeswoman, said.

House Health Committee Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, and Sen. Greg Tucker, D-Nicholas, have said they plan to introduce prescription-only bills for pseudoephedrine during the 2014 session, which begins in January.

“This isn’t unexpected at all,” Perdue said. “They’re protecting their wallet with one hand now. Pretty soon, they’ll be using both hands.”

He said that his office already has received several form letters generated by the association’s website.

Senate President Jeff Kessler’s office hadn’t received any of the form letters as of Wednesday, Kessler spokeswoman Lynette Maselli said. Tomblin’s office has received about 50 letters, a spokeswoman said.

Similar letter-writing campaigns are being led by the association in nine other states where lawmakers are considering prescription requirements.

The association successfully lobbied against prescription-only bills in West Virginia in 2011 and 2012.

Its website praises lawmakers for passing a substance abuse bill in 2012 that establishes a pseudoephedrine tracking system called NPLEx, and states that prescription-only laws punish law-abiding cold and allergy sufferers.

The NPLEx system blocks pseudoephedrine sales when people try to exceed monthly and yearly limits set under state law.