Buying cold medicines in South Carolina could soon become tougher if an Upstate lawmaker is able to push through a proposal aimed at curbing meth use.
Sen. Mike Fair (R-Greenville) will introduce legislation on Tuesday that would require a doctor's prescription for any over-the-counter cold medication containing pseudoephedrine, ephedrine and phenylpropanolamine.
Pseudoephedrine is the one of the key ingredients for making meth, and even though lawmakers already require photo i.d. and a signature from anyone buying such medication, Sen. Fair says it's time to do more because of what he calls the meth epidemic.
Jeanie Davis waited with her mother to see a doctor at Beach Urgent Care Tuesday, but she knows if the law required a prescription for pseudoephedrine, there would be more people waiting with them.
“You come to the urgent care so you can hopefully be in and out, and it slows your time down,” Davis said. “I just think we'd all be better off if we can get our (own) cold medicine and not have to go behind the counter.”
Dr. Ron Reynolds would be one of those physicians that could prescribe a medication with pseudoephedrine in it. But to him, just asking for it, would prompt a screening process to see if the patient uses meth.
“You're really kind of just sitting down and talking with the patient seeing what they're needs are,” he explained. “Really trying to get to the bottom of why they're there.”
Dr. Reynolds believes that the new law could make more people come into his waiting room, but that does not mean that they would leave with a prescription for those drugs.
“There are other alternatives that are prescription, as well as over the counter,” Reynolds said. “You're really getting to the point where there's enough alternatives that you don't really need to use those anymore.”
Dr. Reynolds keeps some of those alternatives, such as antibiotics, in his office for the patients who really do need relief. And the ones who want it to make drugs are out of luck.
“I'm glad it's hard for them to get it in that respect,” Davis said. “But for just people like us who are sick and just want to get well, it's a process.”
A similar proposal by Fair failed to gain momentum during last year's legislative session because Fair says lawmakers were bogged down with other items. This time, though, the conservative senator says it has a good chance of passing.
“The manufacturers will be upset,” Fair said, but he says it's worth trying to curtail the drug's dangerous effects to users and the public at-large.
Former meth users, like John Manus who says he was hooked for two and a half years, have mixed feelings on the proposal.
While Manus says he thinks it's a good step toward addressing the meth issue, he says drug addicts will always find ways around the law.
“All you care about is the next high,” Manus said, adding, “honestly, I think you'd have people going up to people trying to get them to go the doctor and get it that way.”
According to a study released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, two states (Mississippi and Oregon) that have adopted the prescription-only method for pseudoephedrine have seen a decrease in the number of meth labs.