Pharmacists are one step closer to gaining the authority to require a prescription for certain cold medicines as the Indiana House explores proposals to undermine methamphetamine cooks.
With no opposition, the measure passed the House Public Health Committee on Wednesday.
The bill is a stripped-down version of a prescription-only mandate for pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient for meth production.
Republican Rep. Ben Smaltz of Auburn originally wanted that mandate for all sales of pseudoephedrine, but decided to scale the measure back after skepticism from House Public Health Committee chairwoman Cindy Kirchhofer and other House members.
"We have done almost everything we can to stop meth labs in Indiana, short of making pseudoephedrine a prescription drug," Smaltz said in a statement. "After working closely with pharmacists and physicians, I believe we have crafted a bill that would take a significant step toward curbing meth production in our state, while also considering the convenience of law-abiding Hoosiers."
Oregon and Mississippi are the only two states to require a prescription for all pseudoephedrine sales, although many other states have attempted to pass similar legislation.
Indiana has led the nation in meth lab seizures for the last three years.
The prescription requirement has been considered several times in Indiana to combat the trend but foundered amid fierce debate between pharmaceutical companies and law enforcement organizations.
Under this year's revised proposal, people who have rapport with pharmacies will be able to buy as much pseudoephedrine medicine as federal law permit. For those with whom the pharmacy is not familiar, pharmacists may recommend tamper-resistant products or a limited amount of pseudoephedrine. If a customer refuses both of those options, the pharmacists can request a proof of prescription.
Smaltz said the state Board of Pharmacy will set guidelines for how pharmacists will make determinations and have the authority to punish pharmacists who violate the guidelines. The board was unavailable for comment Wednesday.
Rep. Steve Davisson of Salem said empowering the pharmacists to decide makes sense. He is a licensed pharmacist and voted for the measure.
"That's what pharmacists do," he said. "They consult. And as you ask those questions, you get a feel for the type of people."
The committee also passed a bill to ban drug offenders from buying pseudoephedrine without a prescription.