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Kentucky lawmakers get advice on how to battle meth epidemic

Officials from outside of Kentucky are encouraging state lawmakers not to repeat their missteps in the fight against meth.

At a joint meeting of the House and Senate Judiciary committees, officials from Oklahoma and Mississippi testified about how they've restricted the purchase of pseudoephedrine (PSE)—a common decongestant in cold medicines and an integral ingredient in meth.

Mississippi has made PSE available by prescription only. It's a plan many of Kentucky’s lawmakers want to implement in the commonwealth. But opponents of that measure say it will only push meth manufacturing to border counties.

In Oklahoma, PSE is only restricted for buyers with prior meth-related convictions. But the head of the state’s narcotic division told the committees that approach isn’t working.

“You just have to decide if you want to track and do those types of things or do you want to eliminate," said R. Darryl Weaver, director of Oklahoma's Bureau of Narcotics. "And Oklahoma has tracked and tracking does not stop methamphetamine labs. And the collateral damage and the negative to that is really outrageous.”

Opponents of the prescription-only approach say Oklahoma doesn’t have the same tracking system for convictions as Kentucky. The commonwealth uses a national reporting system, called NPlex, that 18 other states use. Oklahoma's system is independent.

For more than three hours, the committees heard testimony that favored a prescription-only approach.

But many groups, including the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association are against that idea. They favor a strengthened national tracking system and implementation of a law Oklahoma's.

Pat Davis is a Northern Kentucky resident who came to the committee meeting to testify, but ran out of time. She said her entire family needs PSE medicines because of allergies.

“All the children in our family and my grandson included suffer from allergies, Davis said. "Four of my six children got allergy shots for years. We’ve seen the same allergy immunologist for over 20 years. And we are Sudafed users. We’ve never abused it. We’ve never cooked anything with it. We take it cause our nose gets stuffy.”

A recent poll shows a majority of Kentuckians don’t approve of the prescription-only approach. But advocates of that approach say ad campaigns against the measure have skewed the numbers.

The committees plan to hold more meetings on the issue as bills with each approach are considered in the General Assembly.

Kevin is the News Director at WKU Public Radio. He has been with the station since 1999, and was previously the Assistant News Director, and also served as local host of Morning Edition.