25 May 2007

Pseudoephedrine letter

I don't often advocate for political causes (other than education and science), but here's one. I sent copies of the below letter to my congresspeople, and I urge you to do so as well. Please also feel free to forward this link or email it to friends, family, and coworkers who might also want to send a letter.

Honorable ******,

I am writing to you today about the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 (CEMA), an amendment to the PATRIOT Act that makes the purchase of the most effective over the counter (OTC) decongestant, pseudoephedrine, in moderate quantities an act of terrorism. The act first came into effect on September 30th, 2006, and as such we are currently in the first allergy season under the act, and its impact upon allergy sufferers is only now coming to light. The strict limitations on the amount of pseudoephedrine that may be purchased at a time represents an undue burden upon allergy sufferers nationwide. Considering that the National Institute of Health has authored studies showing that 54.3% of the US population suffers from allergies, chances good are that you yourself are negatively impacted by CEMA, as well as your family members and more than half of your constituents.

Pseudoephedrine is the best OTC decongestant out there, is the main ingredient in Sudafed, and is an important additional ingredient in many antihistamines such as Claritin and Alavert. Because pseudoephedrine can be processed to create methamphetamine, Congress decided in 2005 to pass CEMA as an amendment to the PATRIOT Act and now classifies the purchase of too much pseudoephedrine as a terrorist act. The problem is that the limits set on the drug are too restrictive: a daily 24-hour dose is 240mg, the law allows the purchase of 3.5g per day (equivalent to 14 days' dosage) or 9g in a 30-day period (equivalent to 37 days' dosage), or 7g in a 30-day period (29 days' dosage) should you purchase online.

These restrictively low numbers mean that allergy sufferers (such as myself) must carefully plan trips to pharmacies to obtain sufficient amounts to sustain us through each month. As the limits apply to ALL drugstores and pharmacies combined, we cannot hop from one pharmacy to another. It necessitates extra trips to the pharmacy for me - a matter of time, convenience, and gasoline consumption. It means that I cannot stock up when they are on sale and thus have to spend more money than I would otherwise. It means that should I forget to buy some pseudoephedrine when I can, I will do without, and like many drugs its effectiveness decreases when it has not been taken for a number of consecutive days.

Allergy sufferers' needs can be addressed by modifying the law to allow higher limits of pseudoephedrine purchase within each day and 30-day period, without significantly impacting its effectiveness in fighting methamphetamine. I would recommend increasing the daily limit to 7.2g/day (30 days' dosage) and monthly limit to 22g/30-days (90 days' dosage). The single case that has been prosecuted to date, of William Fousse, involved the purchase of 29g within a 30-day period, and as such modifying the law as I recommend would still allow the prosecution of the individual in question, and would represent a significant improvement for allergy sufferers.

Thank you for your time, and I hope that you will consider authoring or supporting an amendment to CEMA that would allow higher limits on the purchase of pseudoephedrine, relieving an undue burden on the 54.3% of your constituents that suffer from allergies.

To find your federal legislators, you can use the following webpages.

Via the American Astronomical Society - type in your zip+4 or address. Use this one to get the mailing addresses of your congresspeople; use the one in DC b/c Congress is currently in session so that's where they are right now.

Via the National Education Association - insert your zip code where it says xxxxx below. This one lets you send automatic emails to your congresspeople. You still need to input your info though so they can include that in the email, and you may have to do a captcha to prove you're a human. This one can also help you find your state legislators should your state have more restrictive laws than CEMA that you wish to protest as well.


Michèle said...

I had no idea about this restriciton as I'm one of the lucky ones who don't suffer from these types of allergies. It makes me wonder, though . . . What if a parent has to supply doses to several children in addition to him/herself? Must the parent run to the pharmacy each day? Must the children take turns skipping a day's meds? Or is distribution "per person"? If so, does this mean prescriptions are needed for these OTC meds?

Thanks for the informative writing!

zandperl said...

It's per purchasing individual - minors cannot purchase at all. I've heard that you actually can get a prescription to get a larger dosage (whether for you individually, or for the case of multiple family members using it), but that's not a good solution.