There is a strong debate on Capitol Hill in Nashville about the next step to fight methamphetamine in Tennessee. A few groups are pushing legislators to require a prescription for common medications that many use to fight allergy and cold symptoms. On the other side are groups that say such legislation would punish law-abiding citizens for the illegal acts of drug dealers.
A survey by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America indicates a strong (62 percent) majority of Tennesseans oppose requiring a prescription for cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine (PSE). Under current state law, you are required to show proper identification when buying PSE-based medicines. This procedure, passed in our state Legislature in 2011, is intended to electronically track individuals or groups of individuals that are purchasing significant quantities of those medications that may then be used in the production of meth.
Sheriff Jim Ruth’s column in the Cleveland Daily Banner from March 3, 2013, stated, “... that all pseudo-ephedrine products must be prescribed by a medical doctor.” We disagree with the sheriff concerning this issue. Law-abiding citizens should not be penalized and pay additional medical bills due to needing cold medicine. Right now, there is legislation pending that would enhance Tennessee’s electronic tracking system and implement reasonable purchasing limits.
Our Bradley County legislative delegation — state Sen. Mike Bell, state Sen. Todd Gardenhire, state Rep. Kevin Brooks and state Rep. Eric Watson — believes this balanced solution is the right approach to our meth problem. A number of important local groups, local business owners, the AARP, the Tennessee Eagle Forum and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also share the position of the Bradley County state legislative delegation and opposes Jim Ruth’s stance.
Here are some direct statements attributed to our legislative team:
State Sen. Mike Bell: “Asking folks to drive to the doctor to get a prescription for a common cold medication is just too much to ask until we give our tracking system time to work. Family budgets are tight and even those with good health insurance still must pay part of the cost of the doctor’s visit.”
State Sen. Todd Gardenhire: The freshman senator commented that he recently met with several Erlanger doctors and they unanimously said that this would needlessly tie up physician time and it would cause an extra expense to those that can least afford the deductible from their insurance. “This idea of having these types of medicines be acquired by prescriptions would not take anything out of the war on meth. OxyContin is a prescription-based drug and is given out extensively by the pill mills. Having a prescription for OxyContin has not stopped its abuse. The pill mills and meth labs need to be shut down by law enforcement and not put a burden on the physicians or law-abiding citizens. No lobbyists, no pharmaceutical companies, no drug manufacturers and especially no drug dealers have contacted me about this bill. These issues should stay out of local politics when an election is coming up. I would welcome the opportunity to sit down with Sheriff Ruth and discuss this as a member of the Bradley County delegation.”
State Rep. Kevin Brooks: “Sadly, there is no silver bullet to end meth production and abuse. When debating this legislation, I hope my House and Senate colleagues will keep in mind that currently the large majority of meth in America comes from across our borders. Even if we required a prescription for PSE-based products, large amounts of meth are still making their way across our borders. We must look at the root causes of this problem. We also must enforce with greater diligence the laws that are already on our books."
State Rep. Eric Watson: “To be clear, we have a long way to go in the battle against meth. If Tennessee’s Mexican meth and prescription drug problems increase, a prescription requirement is not the answer. It would impose significant burdens on law-abiding Tennesseans without making a significant impact on our overall meth problem. I, for one, believe Tennessee’s electronic tracking system is doing exactly what it is supposed to. Just recently, it helped officers from the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit track down and arrest a Mount Carmel man who had been illegally obtaining PSE to manufacture meth. We have great laws on the books; however, our law enforcement politicians need to quit working deals out with criminals and start enforcing the letter of the law. Very few criminals are punished to the fullest extent of the law anymore.”
Going forward, the Bradley County legislative delegation will continue to work together to find the best solution to fighting meth labs in Tennessee. We have yet to hear from Jim Ruth and would welcome, if he would contact us, working with him on this important issue that not only affects Bradley County, but Tennessee as a whole.