Avelere Health released a study Tuesday which finds much of the nation facing a shortage of primary care physicians, as well as the additional costs to consumers if more states enact further restrictions on over-the-counter (OTC) pseudoephedrine (PSE).
The study found that 57 million Americans live in regions without adequate access to primary care physicians and the United States health system will likely face a deficit of 52,000 doctors in less than a decade.
In Alabama, 80 areas are short on primary care physicians and 37 percent of Alabamians are living in those areas. Further, the study claims that adding further restrictions on PSE, such as requiring a doctor’s prescription to access the drug, would create an additional 21,799 doctor visits costing about $500,000 in extra Medicaid costs. The resulting inability to purchase PSE without a prescription would cost a loss of $700,000 in sales tax revenue in the first year.
Many states are enacting further restrictions on PSE, such as a prescription requirement and other oversights, because the drug is used in the manufacture of methamphetamine – the psychostimulant which has wreaked havoc all across the nation. More than 30 states have enacted electronic tracking on PSE in order to monitor purchasing patterns on the drug and two states have made it a Schedule III controlled substance.
While such restrictions have proven successful in stemming the manufacture and sale of meth, they risk putting undue burdens on already overworked healthcare systems in places already lacking a sufficient amount of physicians.
“Primary care providers are, and will remain, the main source of care for people with undiagnosed health concerns,” a press release from Avelere said. “These providers are the first contact for most people looking to receive treatment for symptoms that can be relieved by PSE-containing products. However, for those living in a region experiencing primary care shortages, often hospital emergency rooms or urgent care centers become the primary site-of-care. Therefore, an increase in demand and utilization of both primary care and emergency care providers could occur with a prescription-only requirement for PSE.”