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For Immediate Release
February 13, 2013

New GAO Report on Meth Ingredient Restrictions

M E M O R A N D U M

To:    Reporters and editors
Re:    GAO report on meth ingredient restrictions
Da:    Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today made the following comment on a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), “State Approaches Taken to Control Access to Key Methamphetamine Ingredient Show Varied Impact on Domestic Drug Labs,” GAO-13-204, available here.  Grassley is co-chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control.

“Congress has long recognized the danger meth labs pose to our communities.  That’s why we took strong action to control the sale of pseudoephedrine in the 2005 Combat Meth Epidemic Act.  As a result of that law, meth lab incidents declined significantly across the nation, which is  good news for society as a whole, including the children who are often affected when their parents make and use meth.  However, the recent uptick in meth lab incidents requires us to re-examine our efforts to see if more action is necessary.

“The Government Accountability Office report attributed this increase to new methods used to make meth, as well as an increase in buying large quantities of pseudoephedrine from multiple stores using multiple buyers. The report also focuses on two differing theories of stopping the increase in meth labs.  One is making pseudoephedrine prescription-only, and the other is using electronic data bases to track sales and block purchasers who exceed limits.  While GAO found benefits of making pseudoephedrine prescription-only in two states, a greater emphasis on prescription-only laws requires more study.   

“As GAO found, the overall effect on consumer welfare is unclear given a lack of data, such as the cost of obtaining prescriptions.  The cost of filling a prescription is a burden on the vast majority of people who buy cold medicine for its legitimate purpose.  There also could be new burdens put on an already taxed health care system by requiring more doctor visits to obtain prescriptions.  Lawmakers need to weigh the costs and benefits of prescription-only laws, and this report indicates we need more data to effectively measure the costs. One promising development could be the production of new formulas of cold and allergy medicines that make it difficult to extract pseudoephedrine for use in meth.  

“There is no magic solution to stop meth use and meth labs, but the seriousness of this issue warrants further examination of all possible options.  Also, law enforcement needs to keep focusing on domestic and foreign sources of meth, especially Mexico, a major source of meth in the United States.”