Across California methamphetamine abuse is a serious problem in many of our communities.  We at the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA) fully support enforcement and expansion of existing laws that punish methamphetamine manufacturers and dealers.  However, punishing law-abiding Californians by increasing their health care costs and taxes is an overbearing and futile attempt to combat illicit substance abuse.

We understand that some of these drug manufacturers illegally obtain and produce meth from popular nonprescription cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine (PSE).  We need to curb such illicit activities and support common sense solutions that will go after these criminals, but ensure workers and families are able to continue accessing these common and reliable medications.

Unfortunately, there is an extreme legislative proposal (Senate Bill 315 by Senator Wright) that will be heard in Senate Health Committee this week that will only harm consumers.  This pending legislation will require prescriptions for over-the-counter medications containing PSE, which would restrict access to safe and effective medicines for those of us who suffer from the common cold and seasonal allergy.

Can you imagine having to get a doctor’s prescription every time you or your child needs a decongestant containing PSE?

Not only would you be delayed relief from your cold or allergy while you wait to get a doctor’s prescription, but it would wreak havoc on an already over-burdened medical system.  Many people without health insurance or limited health care access would be forced to go to hospitals to obtain a doctor’s prescription for popular medications resulting in a further strain on already overcrowded emergency rooms.

A prescription mandate, like SB 315, will cost businesses in lost productivity, as workers take time off to visit their doctor, a clinic or urgent care center.  By factoring in the insurance costs for the visit and prescription, this mandate would place a significant financial burden upon California businesses and their employees.  It is an excessive approach that has failed in other states and only hurts law-abiding Californians.  This is not a prescription that will solve the meth problem.

Fortunately, there is a better way.  In contrast to this harmful proposal, there is legislation pending that makes good sense.  Assembly Bill 1280 by Assemblymember Hill is a balanced approach that has already been adopted by 19 other states to curb meth production, while ensuring consumers can continue to access the basic cold and allergy medications they need.

Specifically, AB 1280 will establish a real-time, stop-sale system by putting to work electronic technology that links every attempted sale in the state on a 24-7 basis and blocks a sale if the purchaser of the product has exceeded the legal limit.  This technology is the only solution that also maintains consumer access to cold and allergy medicines containing PSE and stops illegal purchases.  It automatically blocks an illegal sale, based on purchases made anywhere in California or in the other states that utilize the same system.

Preserving access to needed medicines, while also preventing them from falling into the wrong hands, will benefit consumers, businesses and the state.  We urge the legislature to do the right thing.

There is no time to delay.  The cold and flu season is here and more people will need access to over-the-counter medication to get well soon so they can remain productive on the worksite or in the classroom.  We ask our representatives to reject any effort to require prescriptions for over-the-counter medications that consumers need.  We should punish criminals, not California workers and families.