Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn., on cancer drug shortages:
Disgraceful. That's the best description of the findings released a few days ago that show unnecessary and damaging shortages of some cancer-treating drugs have led to relapses among some kids fighting cancer at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and elsewhere.
It wasn't the hospital's fault. In fact, it was St. Jude that blew the whistle on this disgrace.
A St. Jude investigator, Dr. Monika Metzger, led a blue-ribbon team from Stanford University School of Medicine and Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, among others, in a study of what happens to children who lose access to a certain cancer-fighting drug and have to shift to substitute drugs during treatment.
Often, the results are shocking. The children get much sicker. They suffer from more severe side effects. Sometimes their cancer returns.
And it doesn't have to be that way. Stronger regulation and oversight of drug supplies, plus better product and inventory management by private drug manufacturers, could fix this problem.
That kids are suffering needlessly because of glitches in our drug manufacturing processes is unacceptable.
The Paris (Tenn.) Post-Intelligencer on the new state prescription drug law:
A new Tennessee law complicates procedures for physicians and pharmacists, but it may help to save lives.
The problem is deaths from drug overdose, which are all too common in our state. Last year, The Associated Press reports, Tennessee had 1,062 such deaths. That was the single largest cause of accidental death — more than from vehicle crashes, murder or suicide.
To help cut into that toll, a law that takes effect Jan. 1 requires doctors and others who prescribe opiates like Vicodin or Percocet, or benzodiazepines like Valium, to register with a state database.
Then beginning April 1, with limited exceptions, they will have to check that database every time they prescribe these medications.
Also on Jan. 1, pharmacists will be required to update the database every seven days, compared to the current requirement of 30 days.
"This really is an epidemic, and we have to recognize it and treat it that way," the state health commissioner said. "We're trying to move towards real-time reporting. I want to know what a patient's been taking this month or this week."
The law makes Tennessee a leader in the effort. Most states, the AP said, have some kind of prescription monitoring program, but they may not be as exacting as ours.
The new rule isn't air-tight. It gets complicated when a patient has been prescribed a drug by a different provider or in a different state. Some patients may be getting different drugs from different physicians and not realizing that a combination of products can be dangerous.
On the whole, though, we hope doctors and druggists will see the law as a way to save life rather than just as a complication.
Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times on grocery store wine sales:
Tennessee's Legislature has long thwarted efforts to change liquor laws to allow grocery stores to sell wine, despite widespread public sentiment in favor of such a change. But given the conciliatory comments of Republican leaders in both the state House and Senate, the tide may turn early in the new year. It's well past time for that to happen.
Key to the potential breakthrough is a change in legislative strategy. Rather than push for a broad state law allowing wine sales in grocery stores, the movement's key sponsors, state Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and state Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, are advocating a referendum clause that would allow local control over passage of a wine-in-grocery-stores ballot. That is unlikely to diminish the debate among the respective industries, but it would shift much of the political heat off legislators' backs.
That's a smart move, and one likely to favor citizen sentiment for a change. As a report by The Commercial Appeal recalled recently, two separate statewide polls last year confirmed broad popular support for wine sales in grocery stores. A Vanderbilt University poll showed 65 percent of respondents favored the shift; Middle Tennessee State University's poll found 69 percent in favor. Even when the Vanderbilt poll asked a follow-up question as to whether a change in the law would "benefit large chain stores while hurting locally owned businesses," 59.6 percent of respondents still supported the change.
To be fair, there is a possibility — or a probability — that local liquor and wine stores would suffer some loss of business under such a change. But as a matter of fair trade and fairness to consumers, wine sales should be allowed in grocery stores. There's no logic to their exclusion. If grocery stores are allowed to sell beer and control sales of that alcoholic beverage by means of carding customers to check their legal age, the alcoholic content from wine to beer is not a legitimate controlling issue. ...
In any case, Tennessee lawmakers should find, at last, that protecting the market for wine sales in liquor stores is needless and unfair to consumers, and to the wine industry at large. ...