MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) — Treating that stuffy nose or throbbing headache is going to get tougher in the new year. On January 1, 2012, pharmacies across Tennessee will use a system called National Precursor Log Exchange, or NPLEX, to track how much cold and allergy medicine you buy. Not only that, but you have to tell the pharmacist why you need it, then they will decide if you really do.
These drugs contain pseudoephedrine, a crucial ingredient used to make methamphetamine. On one hand Memphians agree this law will help the fight against meth. On the other, those who really need cold medicine say this method is too invasive and violates their privacy.
"I don't want anybody knowing my business but if it keeps meth addicts free and clear of any kind of meth I think it's a wonderful idea,” said Memphian Pat Cruthirds.
"You shouldn't tell your business in front of everyone,” said another resident, Roadrius Ewing.
"It's like categorizing everybody as a meth head, you know. Whoever comes in and asks for antihistamines or cold tablets and a pharmacist asks why we need them we have to explain it,” said Lee Brown, who is against the new law.
You have to be more specific come January if you want to buy cold medicine in Tennessee.
"If you came in and want to buy Sudafed I would then ask you what are your symptoms, what kind of problems are you having, make sure you don't have problems with high blood pressure, and then if you meet the criteria for Sudafed then I would say OK, I can sell you some,” said Pharmacist Ami Wittber.
That's not all pharmacists have to do come the new year. They have to put a person’s information, including their address, date of birth, driver’s license number, and the type of product they’re buying, in the new system.
"It's a program that's a multi-state, real time, electronic, Sudafed program,” said Wittber.
You're limited to 9 grams of Sudafed, equivalent to about 3 boxes a month.
"A lot of people are going to quit buying it because of the hassle. They don't want to have to go the pharmacy, they don't want to stand in line, and they don't want to give all their information," Wittber told abc24.com.
In 2010, Mississippi became the second state in the country to make over-the-counter drugs that contain pseudoephedrine prescription only. Memphians worry Tennessee will be next.
"You can't do that because a lot of people can't afford to go to the doctor,” said Cruthirds.
Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi are all participating in the new electronic system. Arkansas passed a law in 2011 that requires pharmacists to "make a professional determination" if a person needs Sudafed.