The region's burn units are struggling to cope with the corresponding influx of patients. Each one racks up approximately $6,000 in treatment per day; stays of up to six months are common. Doctors say unpaid bills, coupled with the labor-intensive care needed to nurse meth-burn victims back to health, are sapping their resources.In recent years the Missouri legislature has rejected proposals to ban the over-the-counter sale of meth's key ingredient -- pseudoephedrine. Such a ban could have a drastic impact on the number of burn victims and Missouri's distinction as the Meth Making Capital of America. But then, such a ban would also require legislators to burn their relationship with the pharmaceutical lobby, which last year ran radio ads in Missouri warning residents that their easy access to Sudafed, Claritan D (and other forms of pseudopehedrine) could be taken away.
"There's not a good workers'-comp plan with drug manufacturing," quips Dr. Jeffrey Guy, director of the Vanderbilt Regional Burn Center in Nashville. "They're never insured. The costs of their treatment just get passed on to society. People who live in affluent areas, when these people blow themselves up they tend to say, 'Oh well, it's one less drug addict.' That couldn't be further from the truth."