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Indiana House leader backing tighter cold medicine law

November 18, 2015

The top Republican in the Indiana House on Tuesday endorsed tightening state law to require a doctor's prescription for cold and allergy medications that can be used to make methamphetamine.

House Speaker Brian Bosma said he knows that making medications that contain pseudoephedrine available by prescription only will be an inconvenience for many people, but said the state needs to become more aggressive in fighting meth abuse.

"We are losing precious resources, human resources, in our state to this scourge," Bosma said during a speech at the Legislature's Organization Day meeting.

Indiana has for several years been among the states with the most meth lab seizures by police agencies. Indiana law limits the quantity of pseudoephedrine medications that consumers can buy, but Bosma said he believes the state's current sales tracking system is insufficient.

Bosma hasn't supported similar prescription requirement proposals that have failed in the Legislature in recent years.

Opponents maintain requiring prescriptions would be inconvenient for law-abiding allergy and cold sufferers and increase health care costs by forcing people to make more doctor visits.

Oregon, Mississippi and some cities and counties in high-meth states already require a prescription to buy pills containing pseudoephedrine.

The Washington, D.C.-based Consumer Healthcare Products Association opposes such restrictions on pseudoephedrine sales and supports laws that ban sales to meth criminals, said Carlos Gutierrez, the group's state government affairs director. Oklahoma and Alabama, Gutierrez said, saw significant drops in meth production after instituting policies that banned sales of pseudoephedrine to convicted drug criminals.

"It is the logical next step for Indiana that allows for a direct ban on the criminal, while still allowing affordable, convenient access to these medications by the Indiana families who need them most," Gutierrez told The Indianapolis Star.

Indiana State Police reported 1,488 meth lab incidents in 2014, down from back-to-back records of 1,726 in 2012 and 1,808 labs in 2013.

Justin Swanson, legislative director for the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, said making pseudoephedrine available by prescription only is one step toward fighting meth production.

"You allow law enforcement to focus on interdiction rather than being reactive and cleaning up meth labs," Swanson said.

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