Doctors, pharmacists ready for new law

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 4, 2010

NATCHEZ — Cold sufferers will now have to make a detour before heading to the drug store.

Many common over-the-counter cold remedies have now been moved behind the counter after a Mississippi law requiring a prescription for medicines containing pseudoephedrine took effect July 1.

The law was passed in February.

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The aim of the new law is the curb methamphetamine production in the state. Pseudoephedrine is the key ingredient found in the illegal drug.

Some of the most common cold medicines, such as Advil Cold and Sinus, Aleve D, Bronk-Aid, Claritin D, Mucinex D, NyQuil D, Primatene, Sudafed, Tylenol Sinus Severe Cold and Zyrtec D still contain the ingredient.

Natchez family physician Dr. Chuck Borum said the effect he expects to see from the new law is extra patients in his waiting room.

“The medicines are things people are used to using to treat a lot of colds,” he said. “Now they are going to have to see a doctor and that is going to be an extra doctor visit and an extra expense for the patient and a strain on doctors who are already busy.”

He said the new law was not put into effect to stop cold sufferers from over medicating.

“A cold is not really something that needs a medical decision,” Borum said. “To me it seems like it is going to be an extra use of already scarce resources.”

Oregon is the only other state in the nation that currently requires a prescription for pseudoephedrine containing cold medicines. Reports from that state show that meth lab seizures dropped by 96 percent in the first year of the law.

Being just a short drive from Louisiana pharmacies, some cold sufferers will just purchase medicines there. Louisiana recently started using a electronic national database to track the sale of over-the-counter medicines that contain pseudoephedrine.

Family physician Matt Verucchi of Family Medicine Associates of Natchez said he already sees a good many patients with a common cold who are looking for an antibiotic for a quick-fix for the virus. He said the best thing for a cold is to treat the symptoms because prescribed antibiotics won’t cure a cold.

“It may increase our visits,” he said. “But that might be an indicator that people are doing the right thing in treating a cold.”

Verucchi said though pseudoephedrine is commonly associated with cold medicine there are still medicines that can be sold over-the-counter.

“There is still other medicines that are effective that don’t have the pseudoephedrine in it,” he said. “Basically what this is going to do is put anything that ends with D behind the counter.”

Local pharmacist Frank Ernst of Ernest Pharmacy said drug makers have been working to replace pseudoephedrine in cold medicines.

“The federal regulations on manufacturers have been changing for years,” he said. “Manufacturers have been changing ingredients and removing (pseudoephedrine) from most anything they could.

“It just isn’t worth the trouble.”

And he doesn’t expect the new law will affect the quality of medicine available to customers. He said Natchez pharmacists are happy to help customers who are confused by the new law.

“Any pharmacist in Natchez is going to make sure the patients get the medicine they need,” he said. “I don’t think it is going to hurt us.”