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Lawmakers hear another pitch for cold-medicine prescriptions

January 25, 2016

Supporters of a proposal to allow pharmacists to require prescriptions to buy medicine with pseudoephedrine say the requirement is the only way to curb Indiana's methamphetamine problem.

The Public Health Committee heard comments on the bill as well as two others Monday and is set to vote on a final plan Wednesday.

Chairwoman Cindy Kirchhofer, R-Beech Grove, said last week that most of the constituents she talked to largely opposed prescriptions because they would be costly and inconvenient.

"We occasionally have to make unpopular decisions to lead because leadership is not a popularity contest," Steiner said. "Are we going to make the value judgment that eliminating meth labs for all practical purpose in state of Indiana is more important than inconveniencing people?"

Lawmakers were tight on time discussing anti-meth proposals after spending half of their morning on two unrelated bills.

Law enforcement leaders, pharmaceutical representatives and medical professionals had about a minute or less each to convince the House Public Health Committee of which of three proposals would be the best plan for the entire state to curb meth manufacturing. Members were also not allowed to ask questions due to the time constraints.

Two proposals aim to foil meth cooks by limiting the amount of pseudoephedrine one person can buy and banning people with drug felonies from buying such medicine.

They were given little discussion.

What dominated the hearing was a bill to allow pharmacists to require a prescription for medicine containing pseudoephedrine. The proposal is a tamed-down version of an earlier mandate for pseudoephedrine medicine prescriptions for everyone.

Bill author Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, pulled back that proposal after the committee announced it would not consider the original version. Still, he stressed his support for total prescriptions.

"We want the good people to be able to get through their acute situations. We want to hammer the meth cooks." Smaltz said at the hearing. "No one is going to solve that problem in this room today."

Supporters of the prescription say legislative action has been no more than a bandage on the problem so far.

"What we've been doing is not working," Smaltz said. "We are No. 1. Not in economy, not in roads, not in basketball. We are No. 1 in meth labs."

Indiana has led the nation in meth lab seizures for the last three years.

The state already limits the amount of medication containing pseudoephedrine that can be purchased daily, monthly or yearly by one individual. It monitors those purchases through an electronic tracking system.

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