Some police, prosecutors back tougher cold-medicine law

December 29, 2015

Some Indiana police agencies say their fight against methamphetamine production would be helped by a proposed state law change to require a doctor’s prescription for a common cold medicine that is used to make the illegal drug.

The head of the state police meth suppression unit said it spends nearly all its time dealing with hazardous small-time meth labs and dump sites.

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council are among those supporting a GOP-proposed bill that would end over-the-counter sales of medicines containing pseudoephedrine.

Marshall County in rural northern Indiana, which spent several years among the state’s top 10 counties for meth labs, has an ongoing problem with the illegal drug. Sheriff Matthew Hassell told the South Bend Tribune the tighter restrictions could frustrate meth makers.

“My thinking is, with our state dealing with this methamphetamine crisis, make it more difficult for (manufacturers) to receive the pseudoephedrine,” Hassell said. “It's an extra step for the person who is properly using it, but I don’t think it’s that big of an inconvenience for a person to call their physician or stop in at a local clinic.”

Opponents maintain requiring prescriptions would be bothersome for law-abiding people who have allergies and colds and increase health care costs by forcing people to make more doctor visits.

Dr. Christina Barnes, an allergist with South Bend Clinic, said she and other doctors already write pseudoephedrine prescriptions, allowing people to buy a 30-day supply at once instead of having to return to the pharmacy weekly per the state’s current restrictions.

“We have a lot of patients who are very grateful because they have a prescription, and not having to go back and have their ID scrutinized and all that,” Barnes said.

Indiana State Police reported 1,488 meth lab incidents in 2014 and said the state was on pace this year for about 1,500 lab discoveries.

Sgt. Mike Toles, who leads the state police’s meth suppression unit, which includes 18 full-time investigators, spends 95 percent of its time responding to and cleaning up hazardous meth labs and dump sites rather than working to stop organized methamphetamine trafficking from Mexico and elsewhere.

:We want to go after these import cases, we want to go after the big hitters,” Toles said, “but when we’re spending all our time with these little hitters, that’s very difficult to do.”


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