To fight meth, should pharmacists hold the prescription pad?

6:56 PM, Jun 12, 2013   |    comments
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Many pharmacists in East Tennessee are already making big efforts to keep meth out of their community by policing to whom they sell pseudoephedrine.

But a new proposal by Republican State Senator Mike Bell of Riceville would ask pharmacists to take on more responsibility.

"There are a narrow group of drugs right now that pharmacists can write a prescription for. I'm looking at adding pseudophedrine to that group of drugs," said Bell.

Tuesday afternoon, a group prosecutors and law enforcement officers gathered in Kingston for a drug task force meeting, including Bell.

He told 10News he intends to propose a new law that would make pseudoephedrine available through prescription only, but he wants pharmacists and doctors to be able to issue them.

He says he wants legitimate customers to be able to avoid paying a co-pay at the doctor's office.

Plateau Drug Center Pharmacist Brent Dunlap says he knows meth is an issue in his Scott County community.

So far this year, law enforcement there has busted 14 labs.

After being approached by law enforcement with the idea in April, Dunlap began cutting back on Sudafed sales in favor of a newer product called Nexafed.

He says Nexafed contains the same active ingredient, but unlike Sudafed, it can't be used to make meth.

"We thought it was a great idea," said Dunlap. "So we put it on our shelves."

The switch was a logical choice and he says as word got out they weren't offering Sudafed to customers without a prescription, he feels safer at work.

He's less convinced, however, about Bell's proposal.

"To some degree it's a step in the right direction. Pharmacists are trained very well to be able to identify if a patient is needing the appropriate medication," says Dunlap.

But he's concerned that without access to a patients medical records he could be held responsible if something goes wrong with a patient.

There are already certain medications that are held behind a counter and require a pharmacists authorization to distribute to customers. But it's not the exact same process as a doctor writing a prescription.

"At some point when patient's charts are available to all providers I think it would be a much easier scenario to work out. In today's environment, there's a lot of question marks," says Dunlap.

He's also concerned about the implications for his business. Examining and gathering information from patients takes time. Dunlap says neither Sudafed nor Nexafed are very profitable products, and he's concerned the proposal would take away time from other customers.




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