UPDATE: Pharmacist discretion bill heads to Pence

Pharmacists would be the gatekeepers for cold medicine that contains pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in methamphetamine, under a bill that attempts to curb meth production in Indiana.

After a long battle between law enforcement organizations and pharmaceutical manufacturers, the Senate voted 41-7 in favor of the measure Thursday. The bill passed the House 72-25 on Wednesday.

The legislation heads to Gov. Mike Pence for consideration.

Under the bill, pharmacy workers will have the discretion to deny sales of cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine to customers that don't have an established relationship with the pharmacy. Those customers might be allowed to buy medicine containing only a limited dosage of pseudoephedrine or could obtain a prescription to get a larger dosage. The bill calls for pharmacists to use their professional judgement and offers civil immunity to those who deny sales.

Customers who have a relationship on record with the pharmacy would be allowed to buy cold medicine containing the full dosage of pseudoephedrine allowed by law.

The bill emerged as lawmakers shied away from a more stringent step of requiring a prescription for all pseudoephedrine purchases.

"Eliminating meth production in Indiana has been one of my top priorities this session, and this bill is a strong step in that direction," bill author Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, said in a written statement. "It's important to balance this priority by not punishing honest Hoosiers who need access to medicine for themselves or for their families."

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, a lobbying group representing pseudoephedrine manufacturers, has been a vocal critic of the bill and any barriers to the medicine.

"This final product is better than what was being discussed," Carlos Gutierrez, director of state government affairs for CHPA, said. "We continue to maintain that this is unnecessary."

The bill also requires the state to track pseudoephedrine sales that come from those prescriptions.

A related bill bans people with meth or heroine convictions from buying pseudoephedrine without a prescription. 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, use NPLEx to track pseudoephedrine sales.


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