BY BILL GRUBB
NEWS EDITOR, THE ROGERSVILLE REVIEW
ROGERSVILLE -- Fighting the war on methamphetamine might require individuals to visit a doctor and get a prescription when fighting a common cold.
Companion bills introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly by State Rep. David Hawk, R-5th, of Greeneville, and state Senator Randy McNally, R-5th, of Oak Ridge, require "any product or products that contain any immediate methamphetamine precursor may be dispensed only by a licensed pharmacy upon presentment of a valid prescription issued by a licensed physician, certified physician assistant, or nurse."
The proposed legislation would have an impact on such over-the-counter medications as Advil Cold and Sinus and Sudafed because of the ingredient pseudoephedrine, according to the Tennessee Pharmacists Association.
'CONCERNS WILL BE STRONGLY CONSIDERED'
Hawk explained that the intent of the proposed legislation is not to "make life more difficult" on law-abiding citizens but to address the growing meth problem in Tennessee.
"It is a shame that Tennesseans who live their lives the right way could potentially be made to get a prescription for pseudoephedrine-based allergy and cold remedies, just because some criminals and drug dealers want to make the illegal drug, methamphetamine," Hawk said.
The state representative noted that, even though numerous different cold and allergy remedies will still be available, the cost and inconvenience of possibly having to go see a doctor is a "real concern" for individuals who feel that pseudoephedrine works better for them.
Hawk added that the concerns will be strongly considered as legislators debate potential solutions to Tennessee's meth problem.
"Over the past decade," he said, "too many families have been destroyed, too many people have died, and too many children have been placed in state's custody because meth entered their lives."
PHARMACISTS ASSN. VIEW
Baeteena Black, executive director of the Tennessee Pharmacists Association (TPA), said there are numerous other ways to battle meth production. She said the proposal that would require a prescription would be "punishing" citizens.
"The Tennessee Pharmacists Association strongly supports use of the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx), the real-time, point-of-sale, tracking system put into place in Tennessee in January of 2012," Black explained.
The NPLEx system ensures that individuals continue to have access to the non-prescription cold and allergy medicines of their choice so they can effectively treat their symptoms without having to miss family or work obligations, she added.
"In addition, this system provides law enforcement with access to valuable information about sales of pseudoephedrine-containing products," according to Black.
'CONSIDER IMPACT ON CHILDREN'
On the other hand, Hawk said members of Tennessee's law enforcement community, including the Tennessee Sheriffs Association, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Tennessee's Drug Task Forces and many others, have asked that this bill be reintroduced after over a year of frustration in the lack of effectiveness of the NPLEx.
Hawk also said any inconvenience should also consider the impact the meth problem has on children, who often find themselves innocent victims.
"Put yourself in the place of the five-year-old child whose home has just been raided by law enforcement because meth was being made there.
"Their first encounter is with some man or woman in a white hazmat suit, so the child cannot see their faces or feel the touch of someone who truly wants to protect that child from the harm that is in their home.
"Next, the child is taken to a medical facility to be decontaminated, once again, by an individual in a white hazmat suit," he explained.
"This child has been scarred for life and is now in state's custody because of meth. I don't want to see this happen in Tennessee anymore."
'JUST ONE CONCEPT'
Hawk also said it is important to note that this bill is just one concept to try to address the meth problem in Tennessee.
"I'm hopeful that all interested parties will work together to try to fix the scourge that is meth in our communities," Hawk concluded.
"We all agree that methamphetamine abuse is a serious problem that should be eradicated.
"Solving the problem is going to require cooperation from many groups including law enforcement and the Tennessee General Assembly.
On the other side of the debate, Black noted that "TPA and its members remain committed to working on this serious problem but believe mandating a prescription for these everyday medications is not the solution."