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Legislation that would make medicine containing pseudoephedrine available by prescription only has the support of Roane County Sheriff Jack Stockton and District Attorney General Russell Johnson.
Pseudoephedrine is used in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine.
“That is the primary ingredient, the precursor,” Stockton said.
The prescription-only legislation is pending in the Tennessee General Assembly.
Stockton said he believes it would curb the meth problems in Roane County and across the state.
“That way, a person has to go to a different length to be able to get the material and have to prove that they need it for a medical condition, other than just to walk in and buy it,” Stockton said.
Johnson said the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference unanimously supports the legislation as well.
“Having to go to the doctor means more time and expense for folks that legitimately need the medication, but there’s a lot of cold medicine available that doesn’t have pseudoephedrine in it,” Johnson said.
Though he supports prescription only, Stockton said he sees another problem emerging if drugs containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine are only available by prescription.
“Naturally, people are going to figure a way out around it somehow,” he said. “I guess it may be the same issue we’re having with prescription pain pills now.”
Drugs that contain pseudoephedrine and ephedrine provide relief from allergies and colds.
Opponents of the prescription-only legislation argue that it unfairly punishes law-abiding citizens, who under present law have to provide a driver’s license, phone number and sign their name to purchase drugs that contain pseudoephedrine and ephedrine.
Providing that information allows authorities to track who is buying it.
Johnson said that method has proven ineffective in keeping up with people who are buying the medicine for illegal purposes.
“They’re only putting those names in the system once or twice a month, so we’re looking at a four- to six-week lag time sometimes in that information being on the computer,” he said.
“The DAs prefer to go ahead and get it scheduled now, or get it scheduled next year, as opposed to relying solely on the registry,” Johnson added.
Johnson said another option he likes is giving pharmacists the authority to prescribe the medications.
“If someone comes in and actually has signs of a cold, let them have the ability to write the prescription for the patient,” he said.
“I kind of like that, because it doesn’t make it so hard that you have to go to the doctor’s office to get a prescription.”
Johnson said he doesn’t think doctors would support that idea.
“They want to retain that authority solely and exclusively for themselves, I would imagine, so it might be hard to get that past the medical lobby,” he said.
Consumer Healthcare Products Association is against the prescription-only legislation.
It has a campaign going called “Stop Meth, Not Meds.”
“If some lawmakers get their way, quick and affordable access to many cold and allergy medicines
you and your family rely on — like Advil Cold and Sinus, Claritin-D, Mucinex
D and Sudafed — could disappear,” the stopmethnotmeds.com website says.
The CHPA is pushing an electronic-tracking system called NPLEx, or the
National Precursor Log Exchange.
According to CHPA, the system provides real-time tracking data.
“They’re saying it will be more real time, so the information will be current and more useful to law enforcement,” Johnson said. “That’s their argument.”
A bill that would require pharmacies to use NPLEx has also been introduced in the General Assembly.