A Senate panel agreed Monday to deny law-abiding West Virginians the freedom to buy cold and allergy medicine without a prescription, on grounds this will cramp production of methamphetamine.

By a split vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a House bill that compels one suffering allergies, colds or sinus headaches to get a doctor’s prescription before purchasing medicines for relief.

The intent is to shut off a supply of pseudoephedrine that 15 common medications contain, such as Advil and Sudafed.

Health and Human Resources Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, acknowledged the bill isn’t a panacea, or a “silver bullet,” as he described it, for putting meth makers out of business.

“But it’s very clear we’ve got to do something about it,” Perdue told the Senate panel.

Perdue, who worked as a pharmacist some 35 years, said those in the profession have told him they support the idea, some out of fear for their safety.

“If six guys pull up to your pharmacy in a van and they all look like they’re armed, they come in and buy pseudoephe-drine one stick at a time, you’ve got an issue of not only security of drugs but your own personal security,” Perdue said.

“Right now, we’re in a dangerous place.”

Freshman Sen. David Nohe, R-Wood, suggested meth makers could go a quarter of a mile into Ohio from his hometown and buy all the cold medicine they want.

Nohe pointed to a recent honor the Senate paid wounded veterans, saying they suffered to keep Americans free and make this nation “the envy of every country in the world, and we give away our rights like this.”

Nohe doubted the bill would do much to curb the production of meth.

“Hoodlums who make this stuff will continue to find ways,” he said.

“They don’t have anything else to do. Just to give away something that we don’t know will work?”

Moreover, the senator said, meth producers download volumes of pages from the Internet on how to produce the illegal substance.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association has strenuously opposed the bill, saying it would inconvenience patients by forcing them to go see a doctor for a prescription to deal with routine colds and allergies.

What’s more, the group has said, the health care costs would rise dramatically.

Richard Stevens, executive director of the West Virginia Pharmacists Association, suggested an alternate plan — let pharmacists themselves write the prescriptions, based on their experience and professional demeanor.

Stevens told Sen. Jo-seph Minard, D-Harrison, that not a day passes that “hundreds of rogue pharmacies” on the Internet offer controlled substances.

“You can purchase just about any drug you want to purchase,” he said.

“By the time they locate one of these rogue pharmacies, they’ve pull-ed up stakes and moved on.”

Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, failed in his effort to amend the bill so that daily reporting of controlled drugs to an electronic database would be mandatory.

The bill now goes to the Senate floor for a vote this week.

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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