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William McLin: Don’t pass a prescription-only measure

One of the top issues for West Virginia lawmakers this year is the production and abuse of methamphetamine.We know how terrible meth is, and lawmakers are asking the right questions and looking for ways to address this issue.We at the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) hope that lawmakers will not pass a law to force law-abiding West Virginians -- especially those citizens who suffer from chronic or seasonal allergy symptoms -- to pay more for medical care and treatment.  We are particularly concerned about a proposal that would force all consumers to acquire a prescription before purchasing over-the-counter allergy medications that contain pseudoephedrine (PSE).  The burden of living with chronic allergies is bad enough. Don't further insult patients by limiting access to the safe and effective medications we need.Founded in 1953, AAFA is the leading patient organization for people with asthma and allergies in the United States.  More than 60 million people in the U.S. -- and 300,000 in West Virginia -- suffer from asthma and allergic diseases.   Many rely on nonprescription medicines to get through the day, and for many patients, PSE allergy medicines like Allegra-D, Claritin D, and Zyrtec D are the best option.  A number of PSE medications offer long-term relief from symptoms, meaning patients can take one pill and get through a busy day at work.  During the spring and fall allergy season, thousands of West Virginia families become even more dependent on these safe and effective products.  Indeed, the tough spring allergy season is around the corner.
Recently, the W. Va. Senate passed Senate Bill 6, which includes a prescription requirement for all PSE medicines.AAFA is firmly opposed to this approach because it would force thousands of West Virginia families to take time off work and school, make expensive additional doctor's office visits every year, and pay higher copays at the pharmacy.These considerable costs would not only impact families and healthcare providers, but also businesses, which would have to contend with productivity declines.In the spring of last year, AAFA conducted a national poll of 2,000 asthma, allergy, cold and flu patients, including hundreds of West Virginians. Overall, we found that 7 out of 10 patients opposed legislation that would require a prescription for PSE-based medicines.AAFA is also paying close attention to a key part of the legislation that would grant an exemption for so-called "tamper-proof" PSE medicines which is misleading.  
It was likely included to make the prescription requirement easier to swallow for on-the-fence legislators. There are no such products available, but rather "low-yield" products that still provide criminals with a smaller amount of the ingredient they need for meth.If lawmakers pass this exemption as part of the prescription requirement, they will be telling the public which cold and allergy products one can and cannot buy.We believe informed patients and consumers should be able to decide which FDA-approved allergy medicines they want to purchase for their families.There is no question that lawmakers are doing right by their constituents in addressing the meth problem during the current legislative session.  In order to truly do right by their constituents, however, we believe they should reject the prescription requirement approach and focus on better solutions that target criminals, not honest citizens.McLin is the president and CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
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