Each year Maine legislators are faced with important decisions about making us safer and improving access to health care with as little government interference in our daily lives as possible. This year they must decide how to reduce the abuse of methamphetamine, or meth.

As a licensed pharmacist and a former state representative, I am particularly concerned about meth abuse in Maine and I applaud the Legislature for trying to address this scourge. There are, however, bills being proposed in Maine’s Legislature which, if they become law, will greatly interfere with law-abiding citizens while doing virtually nothing to stem the use of meth.

With the goal of preventing a few bad actors from diverting pseudoephedrine to make meth, the bills require a prescription to purchase cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine. Safe and effective medicines like Sudafed and Claritin-D, which are now available from a pharmacist without a prescription, would be more difficult to obtain and more costly.

As someone who has worked for almost 50 years as a pharmacist, I am opposed to requiring that a prescription be obtained to purchase these medicines.

Medicine containing pseudoephedrine has been available over the counter for more than 40 years, and pseudoephedrine is one of the most popular and effective decongestants on the market. Maine already has laws on the books to combat illicit purchases of medicines containing pseudoephedrine, including a limit on the amount of pseudoephedrine an individual may buy monthly.

As one of 33 states, Maine utilizes the National Precursor Log Exchange, a real-time, stop-sale system that connects retailers that sell pseudoephedrine to ensure that these legal limits are not surpassed. It is a powerful tool that helps pharmacists at the point of sale, even across state lines, maintain the first line of defense against diversion.


The log exchange is also a crucial resource for law enforcement. It alerts officers to suspicious purchase patterns, flags individuals suspected of making meth, and has been used to make arrests. It can also be used as evidence in criminal trials to assist district attorneys in building cases against meth criminals.

Not only would a prescription requirement unnecessarily hinder law-abiding Mainers’ access, but it also misses the mark on the true source of meth. Increasingly, and almost exclusively, meth is coming into the United States from Mexico. According to recent statistics from the United States Customs and Border Patrol, in 2015, 99.8 percent of meth seized in the United States crossed over our southern border. Additionally, the meth coming from Mexico is more potent and cheaper than domestically produced meth.

This obviously indicates that the great majority of the meth consumed by addicts is not from domestic meth labs but from dangerous drug cartels. The changing nature of meth abuse in our country demonstrates that this is largely a problem of addiction and external suppliers, not one exacerbated by pharmacy sales.

Our state legislators are not in the position to legislate the national problem of meth crossing our border from Mexico. Because of that, they will be tempted to feel they’ve done “something.”

However, that “something” should not be passing legislation requiring a prescription to purchase cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine. This only punishes law-abiding Mainers and will do nothing to stop meth abuse. It will only make safe, effective medicine, now available from a pharmacist without a prescription, more difficult and costly to obtain.

Legislators can achieve genuine results if they address treatment for those suffering from addiction. Bills requiring a prescription for medicines with pseudoephedrine are not the path we should pursue to address our state’s meth issue.

Robert Nutting is a former Republican speaker of the Maine House of Representatives and a retired pharmacist who lives in Oakland.

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