Thursday, July 28, 2005

Prescription to Party?

I seem to be getting a lot of my stuff from the US at the moment. Maybe that's where all the health stuff is happening, I don't know. I do know that this story is worth reading.

The State Parliament in Oregon passed a law requiring a prescription before drugs containing pseudoephedrine could be dispensed. The background to this kind of law is the huge methamphetimines problem in the States. Don't quote me, but I remember a story a few days ago which said that meth was the biggest crime problem in something like 47 US States. Apparently drug abuse is rife.

I don't imagine we have the same problem, although we do have the same concerns. My local chemist was robbed of all their pseudoephedrine products during the night a little while ago. However, is it really worth the cost of requiring a prescription before you can get your hands on Codral or Claritin? I mean, I don't use Codral very much, but when you are snuffly it is pretty good on a very temporary basis. Now, if I had to go to my GP every time I had a cold or wanted a box of hayfever tablets, what costs does this impose on our healthcare system?

There seems to be a propensity in our society to alter law to restrict access to something, without addressing the social problems underlying the phenomenon. It is another case of a few dicks (or a lot in the case of the US) spoiling it for everyone. The trade off between health care costs and criminal law and social harm costs, in Australia, would probably fall in favour of health. In other words, why impose a huge cost on our healthcare system, in other words, treating the symptom, when we are better off treating the cause. Why are these people taking speed? Yes, some do it to deal and produce, and our criminal law system should nail them. Others do it because they are sadsacks. We are much better off asking why people are sadsacks and treating that, rather than making people go to a GP before they can buy pharmacy medicines.

For that matter, isn't there room for a bit of 'pharmacist discretion'? I mean, these people are pretty clever, they have pretty tough degrees to get through. If someone comes and clears their stack of Codral, that is probably a pointer. Me, coming along once every 12 months and buying a pack of Codral or Claritin, is probably not going to lead to a habit. Surely a pharmacist can say "Wow, Mr. Jones, still got that cold? Still going through 3 boxes of Codral a week? Maybe you should go see a doctor. Sure, have my entire stock before you go!" Does that sound stupid to anybody else?


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