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Bill to stop drug offenders from buying cold meds advances

January 28, 2016

Indiana drug offenders won't be able to buy cold medicine containing a common ingredient to make methamphetamine without a prescription under a bill passed by a Senate panel Thursday.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the measure as the state struggles to contain what a senior lawmaker called a meth epidemic. Indiana seized more meth labs than any other state in 2013 and 2014.

The measure requires the Indiana State Police to add drug offender information to the National Precursor Log Exchange, which is a log of over-the-counter sales of pseudoephedrine. Thirty-two states, including Indiana, currently use NPLEx to track pseudoephedrine sales.

Currently, NPLEx tracks the amount of pseudoephedrine sales one person buys, but provides no means to take action. Law enforcement can use this information later to investigate potential meth cooks.

Under the bill, the NPLEx would issue an alert to a pharmacy to stop a sale if a customer's information matches drug offender data in NPLEx when they process their ID at checkout. In Indiana, customers are required to present a state ID in order to buy medicine with pseudoephedrine.

"When you go to buy that product and you swipe your card, and your name shows up with a conviction, you can't buy that product without a prescription," Sen. Michael Young said at the bill's hearing.

The Indianapolis Republican had also proposed a similar measure last year that failed in the House.

The proposal is among a handful of bills that attempt to curb methamphetamine production. House Speaker Brian Bosma said at the start of the legislative session that he is expecting something from lawmakers to fix this "epidemic."

Next week, the Senate will also take up a bill to permit pharmacists to turn down suspicious customers.

On the House side, lawmakers are weighing a proposal to allow pharmacists to require a prescription for medicine with pseudoephedrine from customers they suspect are making meth. Another bill would make damaging property from meth dealing or manufacturing a felony.

The bill passed by the committee Thursday now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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