Remember The Rights Of All Citizens - And Response

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Those of us that are active in the community are sometimes accused of not understanding “how government works.” We do often get frustrated with the slow process of change in government.  Recently Sheriff Jim Ruth published an article scolding the Republican Majority in Nashville for “dropping the ball” regarding stronger government restrictions on ingredients used for meth.  His attack was off base and partially driven by a more personal agenda. 

We choose to deal with the policy implications of his assertions and ignore his personal agenda. Here are the facts we can all agreed on: 1) Meth is a horrible drug 2) We must use all reasonable means to fight it. 3) The need for government restriction must also be balanced against our state and federal Constitutions and individual rights.

Recently legislators were faced with legislation that would have required a prescription for products such as Sudafed, Benadryl, and many others. Imagine you get the sniffles and want to still have a productive day at work. Under today’s law you go to a local store and purchase a product to help your symptoms.  When you make that purchase you activity is tracked.  Those buying large quantities of such items will catch the attention of law enforcement if law enforcement is doing their job. Appropriate steps should be taken to make sure the purchasers are not in the business of making meth.

If Sheriff Ruth has his way, rather than merely going to the store for a quick purchase, you would first have to call your doctor for an appointment and pay a co-pay for your visit. After a visit to your doctor you would be given a prescription for a sinus medicine, make a visit to the local pharmacy and obtain the product. Under this plan you have invested time and money that could have been used elsewhere. 

The legislature had a tough call and in my opinion made the right decision in balancing the greater public good; the need to fight against the spread of meth, and limitations placed on the rights of all citizens.  The public policy debate should continue. Those that choose to enter the debate should be honest and forthright in that discussion.  Sheriff’s article fails that test on virtually every level.

Charles Dunson

* * * 

As a pharmacist serving thousands of patients every year, I am asked to offer advice each and every day. 

Will this medicine make me feel better? What’s the best product for my child’s symptoms? 

As a healthcare professional, I have a responsibility and duty to provide the best possible advice and assistance to my patients. Certainly one of the areas pharmacists are most concerned about is the problem of methamphetamine production and abuse. While it is true that some individuals come into my pharmacy and attempt to buy pseudoephedrine for illegal purposes, the vast majority of the people that I serve simply need a decongestant to combat seasonal allergies that are prevalent in this part of the country.  

Due to the nature of independent pharmacy practice, I have a personal relationship with many, if not most, of my patients.  Pharmacists believe that the illegal actions of a few should not cause an undue burden on law abiding members of the public who are simply seeking safe and effective therapy for minor health conditions that can be safely and effectively treated with over the counter products available from a pharmacist.  The fact is that the vast majority of illicit purchases of pseudoephedrine do not come from community pharmacies. 

For a long time, my colleagues and I were completely in the dark to this activity. Pharmacies had no system in place that helped us track purchases and stop them when people attempt to buy too much. That all changed earlier this year when our state implemented a state-of-the-art system that allows us to stop illegal sales in the same manner we deny a debit card with insufficient funds. All we have to do is simply scan the purchaser’s identification and then the system does all of the work. If a purchaser is about to exceed his or her PSE purchasing limit, the purchase is instantly blocked. Our friends in law enforcement also have access to the data and often arrest suspects based on evidence collected by the system.  Although this system is extremely burdensome to pharmacists and our legitimate patients we utilize it because it helps solve the very problem it was designed to solve.  We had to pay several thousand dollars out of our own pockets for this system but we did it because we want to be a part of the solution to this problem. 

Recently, I was troubled by an op-ed written by Sheriff Jim Ruth in the Daily Banner. In the piece, Ruth harshly criticizes lawmakers for implementing our PSE tracking system and claims that it is a failure.  I was taken aback when I read this, because as a person who uses the system every day, I know it is far from the case. There is simply no way a patient can purchase pseudoephedrine in the amounts needed to produce significant meth through local pharmacies.  These “smurfs” simply cannot go from one pharmacy to another in Tennessee because of this system.  As a law enforcement officer, the sheriff has complete access to the amount of pseudoephedrine purchased in Bradley County and surrounding areas.  I would be interested to see those totals.  My bet is that the pseudoephedrine that is used by the majority of meth producers is purchased via the internet or in states where there are no controls or internet tracking.  What’s more, the technology hasn’t yet been used a full year in Tennessee so there is not enough data to make the statement that it was a mistake. 

I do agree with Sheriff Ruth that something needs to be done but making patients pay for a visit to already over worked physician offices just to treat an allergy is not the answer.  Sorry Sheriff Ruth but there is no other decongestant on the market that works as well for allergy patients as PSE.    Make no mistake, I do not like the time burden that the tracking system places on the pharmacist, the pharmacy staff and the patient but it is at least providing a record of purchases made in each pharmacy and each county in the state.  The real answer to pseudoephedrine is not to make it a prescription but to place it in a new category that puts it squarely under the control of the pharmacist.  Pharmacists are not the problem but we can be a key part of the solution.  The real change needed to this system is to reduce the time that patients have to take to purchase a simple decongestant.  This database can work but there is no question that it needs to be simplified at the point of purchase. 

We cannot go backward and operate in the blind any more than we can remove our access to patient controlled substance records.  Sheriff Ruth, I invite you to visit my pharmacy to see how pharmacists can help you in this quest.  My suggestion is that local law enforcement access the data that is being recorded and see what information is available.  It might surprise them to see that purchases from local pharmacies are not enough to produce the amount of meth that is being made in these homemade labs.  

Terry Forshee, DPh


Another Shield Has Fallen

Grief may cause the ranks of blue To bite their trembling lip Allow firm gaze to Keep their tears at bay White gloved hands, folded flag Badges striped with black A last Radio call Fades away A haunting wail of bagpipe Drones Amazing Grace A three shot volley echoes thru the stones Our Lord has called another hero home A rose was placed upon a grave ... (click for more)

CCA, Your Failure To Act Is Criminal - And Response

Anyone taken into government custody is mandated to be protected in a safe and clean environment, and receive medical care if an inmate complains of symptoms.   The case of the young woman who died at the workhouse is absolutely outrageous and should be a wake up call to the elected persons enabling environments that violate very simplistic standards.  ... (click for more)

Federal Judge Orders Walker County To Pay Erlanger $8,705,000, Plus Interest; Question Of Attorney Fees And Expenses To Go To Jury

Federal Judge Harold Murphy, in a 63-page ruling handed down Tuesday, ordered Walker County, Ga., to pay Erlanger Health System $8,705,000, plus interest, on the Hutcheson Hospital debt. Judge Murphy, of Rome, Ga., said the question of attorney fees and expenses owed Erlanger by Walker County should be decided by a jury trial. Walker County and Catoosa County earlier agreed ... (click for more)

Pinkston Says Offer Was Made To Dismiss Lawsuit Against Him If Prosecution Of Detective Burns Was Dropped; Judge Greenholtz "Greatly Bothered" By Any Such Offer

District Attorney Neal Pinkston said at a hearing Tuesday that an offer was made to drop a lawsuit filed against him by Gatlinburg detective Rodney Burns if he would dismiss two perjury counts against Burns. The district attorney said he should not be disqualified from continuing to prosecute the case or else attorneys would begin suing him or the judge to get a new DA or trial ... (click for more)

Gray Ange New Silverdale Baptist Baseball Coach

Gray Ange, who has been at Silverdale Baptist Academy since for one year, is branching out. Tim Couch, Silverdale’s athletic director, announced Monday that Ange has been selected as the Seahawks’ new baseball coach. Ange succeeds Jonathan Adcock as the Seahawks baseball coach. Adcock, who resigned in July, remains at the school and teaches math. Ange has served ... (click for more)

East Hamilton Gets First Volleyball Win For Brian Wood

The East Hamilton Lady Hurricanes had lost two tough district volleyball matches to start the season, but new coach Brian Wood had complete confidence in his team prior to Monday’s non-district match at Silverdale. Turns out the veteran coach knew what he was talking about as the Lady Canes beat the Lady Seahawks in three straight, winning by scores of 25-22, 25-17 and 25-20. ... (click for more)