Allergies or criminal?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ahh, springtime. The opening of baseball season, the return of songbirds and warmer weather and allergies.

Spring is a wonderful time if you don't have seasonal allergies. The budding of flowers and plants and working of the soil release many common allergens, causing many to get runny or stuffy noses and red, itchy eyes.

Fortunately, modern science has developed wonderful drugs to deal with these symptoms. Antihistamines and decongestants, used alone or in combination, can give many welcome relief from their symptoms.

Unfortunately, like everything else that is beneficial, some people will find a way to turn a good medication into a highly addictive, highly profitable street drug.

Such is the case with the once popular decongestant pseudoephedrine. With some common items and knowledge of chemistry, allergy and cold medicines can be converted into methamphetamine.

A few years ago, the Iowa Legislature passed a law that took all products with pseudoephedrine off the counter, so those that wanted to purchase the perfectly legal over-the-counter medicines would have to register at the pharmacy counter, show identification and sign a paper log book.

Some retailers, seeking to streamline this mandated law enforcement record keeping, computerized the process. Law enforcement has access to the records, which has helped build cases against meth labs.

This year, the legislature has taken the law a step further, mandating an electronic database to record who has purchased products containing pseudoephedrine.

The registry has worked. The number of meth labs in the state has been on the decline. The majority of meth that is in the state now is imported. Law enforcement can focus their time interdicting the meth that is being transported into the state.

These are all good things.

But when will the law abiding allergy sufferer be able to buy their medicine without being held under suspicion as a criminal? Will pharmacists ever be able to "retire" from their mandated law enforcement duties?

Don't hold your breath.