Lawmakers introduce bill to make pseudoephedrine prescription-on

Lawmakers introduce bill to make pseudoephedrine prescription-only

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Right now customers must show their ID to purchase pseudoephedrine, and the drug is tracked through a state database. However, that same report shows the number of meth labs have not significantly decreased. Right now customers must show their ID to purchase pseudoephedrine, and the drug is tracked through a state database. However, that same report shows the number of meth labs have not significantly decreased.
Several lawmakers held a press conference Monday, on the eve of the 2014 legislative session, to announce their new bill that would require a prescription for the drug commonly used to make meth. Several lawmakers held a press conference Monday, on the eve of the 2014 legislative session, to announce their new bill that would require a prescription for the drug commonly used to make meth.
"Tennessee is the worst state in the nation in the number of meth labs," said Sen. Overbey.  "This is unacceptable and a blight on our communities that we must address aggressively." "Tennessee is the worst state in the nation in the number of meth labs," said Sen. Overbey. "This is unacceptable and a blight on our communities that we must address aggressively."

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

MARYVILLE (WATE) – Tennessee remains one of the top meth producing states in the country, and now lawmakers are introducing a new bill is designed to make key ingredient pseudoephedrine only available via prescription.

Two states have passed similar bills, including neighboring state Mississippi.  According to a recent report from the Tennessee Comptroller's Office, in a two-year period Mississippi saw a decrease of 73 percent in reported meth labs.

Those are the numbers local lawmakers hope to replicate here in Tennessee.

Right now customers must show their ID to purchase pseudoephedrine, and the drug is tracked through a state database. However, that same report shows the number of meth labs have not significantly decreased.

"We've made little, if any progress fighting the meth epidemic, and therefore we've got to go to the next step," explained State Sen. Doug Overbey (R-Maryville).

Sen. Overbey, along with Rep. Art Swann (R-Maryville), Rep. Bob Ramsey (R-Maryville), Rep. Dale Carr (R-Sevierville) and Rep.  Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville) held a press conference Monday, on the eve of the 2014 legislative session, to announce their new bill that would require a prescription for the drug commonly used to make meth.

"Making this drug available by prescription only was not our first choice, but it is the necessary choice," said Rep. Swann.  "We have tried other ways to continue to make these products available to allergy and cold sufferers who legitimately need these products  Unfortunately, these meth cookers are two steps in front of us and we must take more aggressive steps to keep PSE out of the hands of those who are destroying so many lives in our state."

In a region heavily plagued by allergies, this bill could have a large impact on people who use pseudoephedrine for its intended purpose.

"I have allergies," said Maryville resident Audrey Hines. "I do take [pseudoephedrine]. I don't take it excessively, but I'd hate to think I'd have to go to a doctor every time I do want to get it."

Dr. Don Ellenburg of Allergy and Asthma Affiliates says the majority of his patients would feel the effects of the new bill.

"There's no doubt that more restrictions on the distribution of pseudo is going to have a profound effect on patients being able to relieve symptoms of pressure and congestion," said Dr. Ellenburg.

Ellenburg says he supports the bill if it's what lawmakers think will fix the meth problem, but he said it will cause an inconvenience for his patients.

"It's a tragedy that we have to make everyone suffer for the problems of a few people who abuse drugs."

The lawmakers behind the bill say they understand the concern of inconvenience, but say with more than 1,700 meth lab busts in 2012, something needs to change.

"Tennessee is the worst state in the nation in the number of meth labs," said Sen. Overbey.  "This is unacceptable and a blight on our communities that we must address aggressively. This legislation provides the most effective means to halt its production and turn back the tide of this dangerous drug in our state."

Sen Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) released a statement Monday following the press conference in opposition to the new bill:

"While I certainly agree with Senator Overbey and others that something must be done to further address Tennessee's meth problem, a prescription requirement would place a significant burden on law-abiding Tennessee families and fail to address the core causes of problem," said Beavers. "Forcing honest citizens to pay to see a doctor every time they have congestion is an unreasonable policy that punishes responsible consumers for the crimes of a criminal minority. It does nothing to deal with the near-constant flow of meth from across the Mexican border, or the treatment of those who suffer from serious drug addiction. It is the same policy that was rejected during last year's legislative session after it was determined that it was both imbalanced and ineffective."

Sen. Overbey says the bill would not necessarily require a visit to the doctor. Prescriptions can be called or faxed, and in some cases a pharmacist can write a prescription.

Nearly two dozen cities in Tennessee have already passed local ordinances requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine. the recent report from the Comptroller's Office shows it's too soon to tell what the effect has been.

The 2014 legislative session begins Tuesday.

"We believe this legislation has a good opportunity for passage," added Carr.  "Many legislators know that this is the best solution to deal with the meth crisis we face in Tennessee."

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