Lawmakers pass bills to give pharmacists discretion

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana lawmakers passed similar, competing bills Wednesday aimed at giving pharmacists the ability to prevent methamphetamine cooks from buying pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in the illegal drug.

In the Senate, Republican Randy Head’s proposal to allow pharmacists to turn down suspicious customers who attempted to buy the medicine passed 41-8.

“This bill is necessary and this bill can work,” said Head, from Logansport. “People give up their jobs they give up their families and they give up their children as slaves to methamphetamine.”

The House passed a measure 92-7 that would allow pharmacists to ask for a prescription if they suspected a customer was going to make meth.

That bill was scaled back from Rep. Ben Smaltz’s original plan to make pseudoephedrine available by prescription only. The Auburn Republican changed it amid pressure that it wouldn’t get a hearing, given that prescription-only bills have failed several times in the Legislature due to negative lobbying from pharmaceutical manufacturers. Opponents have also argued the prescription would be an inconvenience to people who are looking to treat a cold.

Smaltz received a standing ovation Wednesday after the bill passed, and several House members called it a much needed compromise.

“We’ve landed in a really good spot,” Smaltz said. “We don’t want to impact that hard-working regular Hoosier that’s just sick and we want to hammer the meth cook.”

Next, the chambers will swap bills and could decide to combine the two measures; Smaltz said he and Head have sent each other the bills and may decide to incorporate some parts from each into their initiatives.

Indiana has led the nation in meth lab seizures for the last three years. House Speaker Brian Bosma made tackling the issue a personal priority this session.

Rep. Steve Davisson, a Republican from Salem and a licensed pharmacist, voted for the House measure because he said talking to customers to find out their symptoms is a daily part of pharmacists’ jobs. That consultation, according to the bills, will be subject to guidelines set by the state Board of Pharmacy.

The board does not have an opinion on the proposed legislation, said Kristen Schwartz, communications specialist of the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency.

The House and Senate also passed similar bills to enhance a system that tracks pseudoephedrine sales to ban drug offenders from buying the medicine without a prescription.

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