Arkansas PSE bill could spark fresh debate

Bill allows for BTC mechanism for other OTCs with abuse potential

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — SB 437, a bill passed Wednesday by the Arkansas House by a vote of 60-31, introduces a number of new issues to the debate on whether or not pseudoephedrine and similar ingredients should be sold behind the counter or by prescription only.

For starters, the bill — supported by the Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy — would restrict the sale of pseudoephedrine products in Arkansas to residents and military personnel only — out-of-state patients, even those who live in another state but work in Arkansas, would be unable to purchase PSE products.

Second, the bill includes a provision that would allow the state board of pharmacy to add additional nonprescription medicines to be included as part of this legislation without having to pass additional legislation. The provision was included with dextromethorphan in mind, associating DXM with the same abuse potential as PSE. After public hearings, “this would allow the board of pharmacy ... to do the same thing with a product like that that’s being abused — to put it back where a pharmacist has to sell it — and we don’t have to ban it from the marketplace,” testified bill sponsor Sen. Percy Malone, D-Ark., who also is a pharmacist and pharmacy owner.

Finally, the bill not only restricts the sale of pseudoephedrine to behind a pharmacy counter, but to be sold/dispensed by pharmacists only — not pharmacy technicians — and at their discretion.

On these grounds, Tim Koch, Walmart health-and-wellness division director of pharmacy regulatory affairs, communicated the Bentonville-based retailer’s opposition to the bill before a House committee on Tuesday. “It places pharmacists unfairly into the role of law enforcement — to make a decision, ‘Yes, I am going to dispense this.’ or ‘No, I’m not.’ ‘Yes, you are sick.’ [or] ‘No, you’re not [sick], you’re a drug abuser,’” he said.

Walmart steadfastly supported a separate bill put forth by Rep. Marshall Wright, D-Ark., 51st District, that would classify PSE products as prescription only. Wright’s bill did not make it out of the Arkansas Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee on Tuesday.

The PSE bill will go before Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe.

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