KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Governor Bill Haslam put forward his proposal aimed at tackling the meth epidemic in Tennessee Thursday. It lowers limits for the amount of pseudoephedrine you can buy but stops short of going prescription only as other lawmakers have proposed.
"Our goal is to go after those who are abusing the availability of these products without infringing the freedom of everyday people who are simply trying to address their cold symptoms," said Gov. Bill Haslam.
Customers would be limited to buying 2.4 grams of pseudoephedrine, roughly a 10-day supply, in a 30-day period. They could go back for another 10-day supply but it would be up to a pharmacist to approve the sale. Buying more than that would require a prescription.
6 News is hearing mixed reactions to the governor's proposal. Some people say the bill would be beneficial in stopping meth production while others say the only way to reduce meth manufacturing is to make pseudoephedrine available with prescription only.
Heather Bonds suffers from allergies. On occasion, she has to buy medicine containing pseudoephedrine to treat her symptoms.
"I don't buy it, but maybe one, and that's about it, because by the time I finish that box, I'm healed," said Bonds.
Pharmacist Dr. Jamie Price believes the governor's bill could help reduce the growing problem of methamphetamine production in Tennessee.
"I see potential for the proposal to be helpful. Any attempt to try and better take care of patients and to avoid drug diversion is okay by me," said Dr. Price.
The current law in Tennessee allows a person to by up to 9 grams of pseudoephedrine or ephedrine product in a 30-day period. Governor Bill Haslam's proposal would reduce this 30-day amount to 2.4 grams, which is around a 10-day supply of 24-hour doses.
If a person needed more to treat their allergies, a pharmacist could allow an individual to purchase up to a maximum of 4.8 grams in a 30-day period. Anything above the amount in a 30-day period would require a prescription.
Dr. Price says the amount of pseudoephedrine allowed in the bill should be enough to treat people's allergy symptoms for 30 days.
"Four-point-eight [grams] would be plenty, and anything more than that should have the doctor's clinical judgment involved," said Dr. Price.
Bonds believes the bill may help reduce meth production but thinks the best way to fight meth is to make all pseudoephedrine or ephedrine products, no matter the amount, available by prescription only.
"I would think prescription only would be the best way to go. You would know who is getting it, who is not, you would know how much a day they are getting, how much a month they are getting. It would just be a lot easier to track who is getting and how much they are getting," said Bonds.
Bonds is also concerned the governor's bill does not do enough to stop people from going from pharmacy to pharmacy buying the smaller amounts of pseudoephedrine.
State Sen. Doug Overbey and several other area lawmakers unveiled their prescription-only pseudoephedrine bill Monday.
He released a statement Thursday saying he welcomes public dialogue and appreciates Gov. Haslam's efforts to address the issue:
"While I stand strongly by our proposal introduced this week, I welcome public dialogue on this issue and certainly appreciate and respect Gov. Haslam's efforts to address the issue head-on.
"With that said, I also must emphasize the fact that meth production in Tennessee has risen to such unacceptable levels that merit the strongest solution possible.
"Meth blights the futures of entire families – including innocent children – and has rendered a socio-economic scourge across many communities, particularly in my district's region of East Tennessee.
"It's for those very reasons that I respectfully must emphasize the point that, as the adage goes, ‘If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always got,' and it's proven to date that current efforts to curb meth production in Tennessee aren't working."
6 News also heard from an industry group, The Consumer Healthcare Products Association. It commended the governor for his desire to address the meth problem, but points out that Tennessee and Knoxville are some of the most challenging places for allergy suffers to live.
"For too many Tennessee families, the proposal is tantamount to a prescription mandate and imposes unnecessary burdens on law-abiding citizens' time and pocketbooks," said company president and CEO Scott Melville in a prepared release.