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Why is it always a new law?

AS I sat across the long table from state Sen. Dan Foster, D-Kanawha, at a meeting with the Daily Mail editorial board on Monday, one question kept rolling in my mind.

Why is the answer always a new law?

Foster, Delegate Don Purdue, D-Wayne, and others were pitching a bill to the editorial board.

Foster, a surgeon now working as an administrator, has considered meth labs and decided the only way to reduce their number is to make West Virginians get a doctor's prescription to buy cold medications like Sudafed that contain pseudoephedrine.

He dismissed an industry plan to tighten the tracking of the sale of these drugs.

"What we have here is an attempt by the industry to prevent the prescription-only option, which we think works far, far better by offering what some would call a compromise," he said.

Legislating is all about compromise.

I do not understand the hostility to industry.

Perhaps because the measure fell by one switched vote last year, Foster sees no reason to work with industry.

Perhaps he blames the industry for that switched-vote loss.

But I would give the industry solution a whirl, because we already tried a new law in 2005 that was supposed to be the final solution. That law placed the over-the-counter medications behind the counter.

Under that law, customers must sign a log and are limited to how much Sudafed and the like they may purchase in any given month.

That law apparently worked to some degree.

Now we are back to discussing a new law.

There is an irony in requiring people to get prescriptions to buy these cold remedies.

Prescription drug abuse is the No. 1 drug problem in West Virginia.

Unscrupulous doctors have seen workers comp fraud dry up now that the state no longer runs workers comp. The crooked doctors switched to writing prescriptions for oxycodones such as OxyContin.

The result is that West Virginia now is second only to New Mexico in the number of drug-related deaths per 100,000 people.

The drug industry has pointed out that of the more than 5,000 drug-related deaths in the state since 2001, only about 40 are meth-related.

A cynic might suggest that the only result of requiring prescriptions for cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine would be to give oxycodone-peddling doctors a secondary revenue stream.

Not that the drug industry is so innocent.

The people who legally manufacture products that contain pseudoephedrine or oxycodone do benefit from the increased sales due to prescription drug abuse.

I suggest the pharmaceutical industry crack down  — and the American Medical Association as well.

We know what pharmacies sell these products most, and we know what doctors prescribe oxycodones most. Medicaid, too, could better monitor the situation.

New Mexico and West Virginia not only are the top prescription-drug abuse states, but they also rank among the most chronically poor states.

My wife, who purchases the cold remedies in our household, said she would not mind needing a prescription to buy Sudafed — if the law works.

She does not think it will.

I learned 34 years ago that my wife is never wrong.

The meth mess is not the only problem the Legislature wants to solve simply by expanding the West Virginia Code.

Both Charleston newspapers support a ban on texting while driving.

I do not dissent.

But do we not already ban reckless driving?

My point is that I am not opposed to the existing laws or to adding new laws. I just think that should be the last step, not the first.

Surber may be reached at donsurber@dailymail.com. His blog is at http://blogs.dailymail.com/donsurber.


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