A sympathomimetic amine is a stimulant to the central nervous system that suppresses the appetite, has an addictive quality, can elevate blood pressure and stimulates the respiratory system.
Pennsylvania has no laws prohibiting the use of amphetamines for weight control, and state officials say some doctors prescribe "speed" for patients who misuse it or sell the drug at higher prices on the street.
According to the Department of Public Welfare, 142 physicians, dentists, chiropractors and podiatrists are banned from the Medicaid program in Pennsylvania because they were found in violation of state Medicaid regulations.
Many of the doctors on the state's list of suspended health professionals were barred from the Medicaid program because they prescribed amphetamines for long periods without medical justification, thus risking the lives of their patients, according to officials in the state Department of Public Welfare.
Other physicians were suspended because they overcharged the program by requiring patients to return each week for new prescriptions - rather than authorize refills - so the state could be billed for additional office visits.
The availability of amphetamines and their widespread use was emphasized in recent reports by the Drug Enforcement Administration showing that for two consecutive years, Pennsylvania consumed larger quantities of amphetamines per capita than any other state.
The commonwealth also led the nation in 1983 and 1984 in the per-capita use of another stimulant, phenmetrazine (sold under the trade name Preludin), and a sedative, secobarbital, according to the most recent DEA statistics.
And it was among the top 10 states in the use of seven other prescription drugs. The same rankings were expected in a forthcoming report for 1985, DEA officials said.
States with strict drug laws usually place low in the national drug rankings. For instance, New York and New Jersey, two of at least seven states that outlaw the use of amphetamines as a diet aid, rank near the bottom of the list for per capita consumption of the drug.
In Pennsylvania, the new regulation being considered by the state boards of medicine and osteopathic medicine "would make it difficult for physicians to administer, dispense or prescribe amphetamines or other sympathomimetic amines . . . except for medical purposes where the potential benefit from the use of the drug outweighs the potential for drug abuse and diversion," Liebler said.
She added: "Sympathomimetic amines are frequently made available through physicians' prescribing and dispensing practices."
Liebler said the Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine believe that the state's problem with amphetaminelike drugs "has reached a level where aggressive measures must be taken by the two boards."
The boards are expected to agree on language for a regulation this summer. Liebler said it would go into effect after a review process.