Popular 12- and 24-hour release cold and allergy medicines that contain pseudoephedrine are available over the counter in Tennessee, but consumers are now limited in how much and how often they can buy the medicine. And it has to be requested at the pharmacy counter rather than just picked up off the store shelf. The reason for these restrictions is a law passed to curb the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine.
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America Vice President of External Affairs Mike Tringale told the Times-News a cumbersome chore has been placed on doctors and pharmacists with this new law, while those suffering with runny noses, headaches and other allergy symptoms must jump through hoops to get an over-the-counter medicine.
“Let’s not put a police badge on the doctor,” said Tringale. “And getting the patient to sign a ledger at the pharmacy counter is not accurate or hard to track when the person signs another name to the list. It is important for that family to have access to the medicine they need without added requirement, but the meth problem has ruined things for everyone.”
The law helps track a patient’s purchases, which are logged into a national database, to make sure they do not exceed a limit of 9 grams or 9,000 milligrams in a month, according to the state statute.
“We are on the same side of the fight against meth. We are all on the same page,” said Tringale.
“Let’s use the proven method like electronic tracking with identification to drive down the problem instead of deputizing physicians to do this work or restricting the rights of patients to get their medications. We need to find modern solutions and improve tracking criminals.”
In a 2010 AAFA survey, 71 percent of patients opposed prescription-only laws for over-the-counter remedies.
“A prescription-only law is not patient friendly. Some health care plans call for a fail-first policy. That is having the patient get an over-the-counter medicine to see if it works before a prescription for an allergy medication is written. Getting a script for over the counter requires a doctor’s visit, increasing their cost.”
At a bill-signing ceremony in Greene County this summer that outlined Tennessee’s tracking of pseudoephedrine products, Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police Executive Director Maggi McLean Duncan said the law was an adequate measure to help fight meth and fit the needs of consumers.
“Most consumers don’t buy an entire month’s worth of allergy (pills) in one day,” Duncan said. “And your regular consumer doesn’t use 9 grams in one month, trust me.”