Lawmakers Set To Debate Prescription For Cold Medicine
by Scott Arnold
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Medicine for the common cold could soon come at a high price here in Tennessee, and possibly even a visit to the doctor. A fight is brewing at the State Capitol over the issue.
Law enforcement agencies like the TBI are getting state lawmakers in their corner to support a bill that would require everyone to have a prescription to buy common cold medicine like Sudafed.
Sudafed contains pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient to make meth. The problem is so bad it's now believed a third of pseudoephedrine sales in Tennessee are to make meth.
With new technology, meth can be made in homes and in cars in less than an hour. This has lead to a record number of meth lab seizures in Tennessee, more than 1,900 this year alone.
In 2009, there were only ten meth lab busts in Oregon. That's because a prescription is required to buy cold medicine like Sudafed in Oregon.
"Controlling pseudoephedrine is absolutely crucial to controlling meth using today's manufacturing processes," says Tommy Farmer with the Tennessee Meth Task Force.
Members of Tennessee law enforcement will push state lawmakers next year to enact a law like Oregon.
There is resistance; the Tennessee Pharmacist Association believes a $6 box of Sudafed could end up costing a lot more.
"Having to go to a physician, paying for an office visit, and those other kinds of things, we're talking 50, 60, 70 dollars in some cases," Dr. Baeteena Black with the Tennessee Pharmacist association said.
Pharmacists will push state lawmakers to track pseudoephedrine sales electronically. But the Tennessee Meth Task force said that's already happening, and they need to take things a step further.
There's a belief law enforcement needs to keep up with changing times in the meth game. There's new technology, but there's also something called "smurfing." Meth dealers recruiting college kids, even the homeless, to go from pharmacy to pharmacy, getting the pseudoephedrine they need to keep the meth lab going.
If this bill is passed, it essentially would make pseudoephedrine a controlled substance. It used to be a controlled substance until 1976, and now it's become a staple in cold medicines.
State lawmakers will most likely start debating the issue when they head back into session in January.