Tennessee lawmakers consider making pseudophedrine prescription only

9:08 AM, Jan 13, 2014   |    comments
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Nashville, Tenn. (WBIR) -- It's back to work this week for Tennessee lawmakers. On their return to Nashville, it's a new year, and there is a renewed push for some long-debated changes.

The legislators are looking into a few different ways to attack the meth problem, and one way involves making pseudoephedrine prescription only. That means you would need to see a physician before you can purchase this medication.

For many, it's the go-to relief for a cold, or allergy. For some, it's the key ingredient in a dangerously addictive drug. For lawmakers, pseudoephedrine poses a difficult challenge.

"I deal with allergies all the time so you would have all those extra doctor visits, the extra co-pays and the extra expenses. So you have to weigh that with being able to help with the problem and save lives, because you know, they could be making meth right next to you in a car at Walmart," said State Senator Becky Massey.

The state of Tennessee already tracks pseudoephedrine purchases with a system called NPLEx. But a study by the Comptroller's Office showed that system did not decrease meth lab incidents substantially, and levels are still high.

That is where the new bill comes in.

"I think it will be effective in reducing the number of labs. And that's relying on the statistics we have seen from Mississippi and Oregon," said State Senator Randy McNally.

State representative Gloria Johnson has concerns about the bill in this state.

"What I am hearing from a lot of folks is they say, 'Why should law abiding citizens have to go to the doctor to get this prescription?' The state of Tennessee has some of the highest instances of allergies," said Johnson.

She thinks the focus should shift from purchasing restrictions to rehab efforts for meth abusers.

"Is there rehabilitation for those folks who want to get help? Because what I am hearing is there are not enough facilities for people to get that help. We need to get people off these drugs. Certainly we need to stop these labs. So if we cut the demand of meth, we will also cut the labs that way," said Johnson.

It could mean more trips to the doctor for allergy medication, but some wonder if, in these cases, pharmacists should get the power to prescribe.

"I think the training of the pharmacist or a physician would be in position to tell who would be in need of it and who would simply be out smurfing," said McNally.

The session begins Tuesday. Then the debate officially opens in Nashville.

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