TBI backs prescriptions for meds used to make meth
Posted: Thursday, February 3, 2011 9:00 pm
By ERIK SCHELZIG
NASHVILLE (AP) — The head of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Wednesday he supports requiring prescriptions to buy cold and allergy products that contain an ingredient used to make methamphetamine.
Director Mark Gwyn said moving products like Sudafed and Claritin-D behind the counter would make it more difficult to obtain the pseudoephedrine that is used to cook meth.
“I know it may be a little bit more inconvenient to get a prescription, but you’ve got to weigh that against the people that are dying in this state,” Gwyn said. “What we’re looking at is a cold medicine — we’re not looking at a medicine that treats heart disease or diabetes or anything like that.”
Tennessee busted a record 2,082 meth labs last year. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has attributed the increase in making meth to the simpler “shake-and-bake” method that involves mixing ingredients in a soft drink bottle.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said he plans to meet with Gwyn and Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons to discuss the approaches his administration could take on the issue.
“Obviously we want to do something because it is a growing issue,” Haslam said. “It used to be a rural issue, and now it’s urban and rural. And it’s so easy to do.”
The Tennessee Pharmacists Association opposes legislative proposals to follow states like Oregon and Mississippi in making the cold medications available only by prescription.
Two Republican state lawmakers, Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet and Debra Maggart of Hendersonville, announced Wednesday an alternative proposal to create an industry-funded electronic tracking program for pseudoephedrine as a way to fight meth.
Haslam called that effort “something that’s very doable and helps attack the problem without being quite so burdensome to pharmacies and the providers.”
But an Associated Press investigation last month found that electronic systems that track cold medicine sales have failed to curb the meth trade and instead created a black market.
Since tracking laws were enacted beginning in 2006, the number of meth busts nationwide has started climbing again, which supporters say has been caused by the tracking system making it easier for police to find people who participate in meth production.
Gwyn said the cost of meth goes beyond the health effects on users.
“Vanderbilt says one-third of their burn unit is meth victims. That’s tens of thousands of dollars a day to treat these people,” he said. “The kids that are being taken from homes, the contamination issue — when you look at all of that, I think it’s pretty simple to know what we need to do.”
Haslam said he expects to announce the administration position on the issue within the next two weeks.
Published in The Messenger 2.3.11