"Prescription" ephedrine battle lost

It’s nothing to sneeze at—the idea of requiring a prescription in Indiana to buy cold medicines commonly associated with meth making.

For a short time, the idea was entertained today in the Indiana House Public Policy Committee, after some local mayors offered strong support.

“I would suggest requiring a prescription to take the pharmacies off the firing line,” said Mayor Joe Thallemer, (R) Warsaw.

Mayor Thallemer says when he became mayor he asked Warsaw pharmacies to voluntarily pull Sudafed from their shelves and that two independent pharmacies did. “One pharmacy manager told me that during a Friday evening, eight out of ten pharmacy purchases were Sudafed. Another joked that they should put a display at the end of the aisle with all the meth ingredients for convenience.”

Thallemer was one of four mayors who addressed the legislative panel today.

“My personal opinion, I think it needs to become a prescription drug, and I’ll tell you why” said Mayor Dennis Tyler, (D) Muncie. “The State of Oregon had 473 meth lab incidents in 2006, they passed a prescription drug law, in 2007, they had 20 meth lab incidents, in 2010 they had three, so they’re going away.”

The testimony from the mayors today sent a strong message that the current war on meth is not being won. “Things have gotten ugly in just the last six weeks, 21 arrests for either possession of manufacturing meth in Marshall County alone,” said Mayor Mark Senter, (R) Plymouth. “When I read an article about two children under the age of five located in a lab on the west side of Plymouth, I decided we needed to take another step.”

Not all was gloom and doom at today’s hearing on Senate Bill 496. Mayor Thallemer spoke of some new products he says hit the market about four months ago that are billed as “tamper proof,” therefore, of little use to meth makers.

“What this tells me is there’s technology now to create tamper resistant Sudafed,” said Mayor Thallemer. “What it tells me is that if we restrict Sudafed through prescription or quantity purchase, and put pressure on maybe to develop and refine this, then everybody can become a winner.”

State lawmakers today also heard that the bad guys had found a way around the current limits on individual cold medicine purchases. “One of the problems we have, they’re going to the homeless shelter you know, one guy will go down there, he’ll pick up 50, 60 homeless people in a day, go buy a box of Sudafed,” said Det. Brock Hensley with the Evansville Police Department.

One committee member today offered an amendment that would allow local communities to decide for themselves whether prescriptions should be required for the sale of certain cold medicines. The amendment died, when no one made a motion for its consideration.

The committee then unanimously approved the bill as written. It would tighten the 86 gram annual purchase limit for individuals to 61 grams, a reduction of about 29 percent.

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