Cold medicine goes prescription-only

Published 6:42 pm Thursday, July 1, 2010

When Brookhaven’s Sarah Joiner gets a sinus infection, she goesto the drug store and picks up some Sudafed.

But not after today.

House Bill 512, passed during the 2010 state legislativesession, has made it a requirement that anyone who wants topurchase medicines containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine have aprescription. Those two chemicals are used in the production ofmethamphetamine

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“That’s garbage,” Joiner said. “Instead of paying $15 for coldmedicine, I’m going to have to pay for a doctor visit and then themedicine on top of it. Just for a sinus thing. It’sridiculous.”

Meanwhile, Monticello’s James Cameron said he just won’t buycold medicine anymore.

“What they’re doing is making it so good people with colds andsinus problems will just have to tough it out,” he said. “Even if Ihad the money to go to the doctor every time I can’t breathe, I’dstill have other things I’d rather spend it on.”

Even pharmacists foresee the fact that people will beinconvenienced by the law.

“It’ll cause them to have to see a doctor about them instead ofjust being able to walk in a store,” said Clint’s Pharmacy ownerClint Bane. “It will cause them to be delayed getting theirmedications, and it’ll be more expensive no doubt, since they nowhave to go to the doctor to get the prescription.”

And law enforcement officials say they don’t foresee a bigchange on the horizon as far as methamphetamine production.

“They’re ordering stuff out of Mexico and different places, andeven driving to Texas to get boxes and load up and have themstockpiled,” said Southwest Mississippi Narcotics Enforcement UnitCommander Tim Vanderslice. “We’ve also got some intel that they’regoing around now, hitting stores and trying to buy up every boxthey can find.”

Bane said he had seen minor activity leading up to Thursday’sdeadline, as far as people stocking up on their meds a little, butthat he has a familiar customer base. Customers are also monitoredwith a log book.

Beverly Bane Case of Bane Drugstore said they also know alltheir customers and require an ID and signature.

That has kept people from trying to load up on cold medicine inher store as well. There has not been a marked increase in cold andsinus medicine shopping in recent weeks in her store.

“We don’t see much of that because we know our customers,” shesaid, adding that customers have had to sign and show ID in orderto buy cold medicine until this point.

LaRue Baker of LaRue’s Discount Drugs said it’s possible thatthe law will actually make things more convenient for families. Inthe past, sales were restricted, so if multiple family membersneeded medication, it was hard to obtain all the medicineneeded.

“It may be easier, because they’re not limited to one packageevery so often,” he said. “As it was, they can’t get one for themand one for their child at the same time. We’ll see if it works,I’m sure it will.”

Vanderslice said law enforcement have ways to track thepurchases of medicines containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.Once someone has bought enough, they can be visited by officers whoare checking on their reasons.

“You’re going to run across some of them, you’re going to seethe names that are buying this stuff over and over again, and thatthrows up a red flag,” he said. “We may not know you, but if youbuy enough, we still may be knocking on your door.”

Just the possession of too much of the drugs can also equal amisdemeanor charge, Vanderslice said.

“Once they get so many of them we can make a misdemeanor arrestbecause you can only have so many in your possession,” he said.

The law also toughens the penalties for manufacturing metharound minors or in a hotel or apartment. Whether it will have aneffect on the methamphetamine industry is still unclear.

“Hopefully it’ll have some effect on curbing the misuse of it.Time will tell,” Bane said.

But the fact remains that like many other crimes, restrictionsmay not make the criminals quit, they may just make themsneakier.

“It’s not just in Lincoln County, it’s the same thing in Pikeand Walthall, and I imagine it’s all over the state,” Vanderslicesaid. “It’s all a big game. It’s catch me if you can.”