Restrictions on prescriptions unnecessary

Freedom New Mexico

Fallout from our panic-driven war on drugs includes the demonization of medications that has reached irrational levels. Abuse by some has made many drugs unavailable to people who really need them, or driven some to live with their medical condition rather than endure the trouble of getting treatment.

Virtually all drugs, including those that now are illegal, originally were developed to help people. Heroin is a powerful painkiller; medications for pneumonia and other illnesses once contained cocaine. Even the active ingredient in marijuana is known to provide relief for glaucoma, the side effects of cancer treatments and other maladies.

Sadly, the overreactions of politicians — most of whom have no special knowledge of medicine — has led to policies that has made many lives worse, or prevented them from getting better. People have gone without treatment because they couldn’t afford the doctor’s visit that was needed to get a prescription.

It’s common for New Mexico and Texas residents to bypass these impositions by crossing into Mexico, where they can buy over the counter many drugs that require prescriptions in the United States. That has been one of the lures for retirees who spend cold months in those regions. Many of them have chronic conditions, like high blood pressure, and already know what helps them. They see little need to spend the time and money to see a doctor for a new prescription every time they need a new supply of drugs. Many parents whose toddlers had frequent ear infections have gotten antibiotics in Mexico, where they were cheaper and more accessible, although the Mexican government has started imposing its own restrictions on those kinds of medications.

A new study shows how Texans react to the restrictions, and options south of the border. Joseph Potter, a sociology and population research professor at the University of Texas at Austin, found that women who went to family planning clinics in El Paso for contraceptives were 60 percent more likely to stop taking them within nine months than women who bought them over the counter in Ciudad Juarez. The Border Contraceptive Access Study, funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, also found that women who received small supplies the pills were about 80 percent more likely to stop using them than those who could buy as many as they wanted.

Doctors frequently lament that they lose patients because they don’t buy medicines or miss or reduce dosages because they can’t afford to fill the prescriptions. The corollary should be obvious: More people would be able to afford medications if they didn’t first have to pay for the doctor’s visit every time they had to refill the order.

There’s no telling how many people have died or endured worse health because they couldn’t refill a prescription.

Certainly, self-prescribing medication carries risks. Ideally, a person would see a doctor for the initial diagnosis and prescription or recommendation, and see the doctor again if problems arose or the treatment didn’t work. Otherwise they should be free to buy the medications on their own, as long as they were effective and no complications arose.

This study supports what many people have long recognized — unnecessary restrictions on medications can do more harm than any good those restrictions might offer.