The Indiana Senate passed a bill Wednesday morning that would impede methamphetamine cooks from buying a key ingredient: cold medicine.
Cold medicines containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, precursor drugs to meth, are available without a prescription.
Indiana has already placed limits on the amount of these medicines a pharmacy can sell to one person in a 30-day period, and prohibits sales to minors.
Cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine are held behind the counter.
“It’s very easy, despite the restrictions we already have, for meth cooks to make their products,” co-author of the bill Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, said during the Senate session.
Senate Bill 80, which passed in the Senate 41 to eight, would allow pharmacists to deny the sale of these drugs based on professional judgment.
In a process called “smurfing,” a meth cook will ask accomplices to go from one pharmacy to the next picking up these medicines, usually in maximum doses.
“The pharmacists tell us it is easy to identify who wants it for a cold and who wants it to make meth,” Head said.
In January, legislators rejected proposals that would require a customer to obtain a prescription to buy medicine with pseudoephedrine.
Opponents argued restricting the medicine would hurt drug companies and citizens who currently use the medicine legally.
Head told the Senate the method of allowing pharmacists to deny selling the medicines at their discretion has already helped curb meth abuse in Arkansas.
He explained pharmacists in Arkansas would ask customers why they needed the maximum dosage of the medication, or would suggest another medicine that could treat their cold, if they felt suspicious of the customer.
Meth labs consequently decreased by 95 percent, Head said.
Fulton County, within his district in Indiana, also implemented this model, and the sale of the cold medicine Sudafed decreased by half, he said.
He said he hopes to see similar results across the Hoosier state.
“Indiana has led the nation in meth lab busts in each of the last three years and this is a terrible, terrible thing,” Head said. “The human cost is devastating.”
Meth cost in Indiana was an estimated $1.87 billion in 2005, according to the IU Center for Health Policy.
SB 80 also defines “drug related felony.”
The offense of possessing a precursor to meth, which is illegal for meth offenders even if they obtain a prescription beforehand, would also apply to a person convicted of a drug related felony.
The bill will now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.
“I ask that you make it the law in the state of Indiana,” Head said.
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