Pharmacists in Indiana are backing state legislation that would uphold over-the-counter access to medicines containing pseudoephedrine (PSE) while reining in illicit use of these products for methamphetamine production.
Community Pharmacies of Indiana (CPI) is supporting Indiana Senate Bill 80 (SB80), also known as the Pharmacist Legitimization Bill. CPI said the measure aims to control the sale of PSE medications and decrease meth manufacturing in the state without requiring a prescription “and unfairly penalizing law-abiding customers.”
PSE is a key ingredient used in the illegal production of meth, a growing drug abuse problem in communities nationwide. That has led to state and local measures that regulate access to OTC products that contain PSE, including calls to make such medicines available only with a doctor’s prescription.
Under the Indiana bill, cold medicines containing single-ingredient PSE, such as Sudafed, will remain available for behind-the-counter sales without a prescription.
It would also enable pharmacists to briefly consult with customers seeking products containing single-ingredient PSE, ask about symptoms and potentially recommend effective, nonprescription PSE products that contain meth-resistant safeguards, such as Nexafed and Zephrex-D.
In addition, pharmacists would be granted legal protection to decline what they see as potentially illegitimate sales of PSE products that lack meth-resistant features.
CPI, which represents more than 165 independent pharmacies, noted that SB80 — sponsored by State Sens. Randy Head (R.) and Jim Merritt (R.) — is modeled after a successful Arkansas law passed in 2011.
“The Pharmacist Legitimization Bill represents commonsense legislation that balances efforts to help curtail the proliferation of meth labs throughout our state while also preserving the customer’s ease-of-access to effective cold medicines for legitimate use, without the burden of obtaining a prescription every time they have a head cold,” stated CPI board president Ben Rachwal, owner of Custom Plus Pharmacy in Indiana. “Any independent pharmacy owner will agree that pharmacists are often the front line of defense against suspicious medication purchases. Senate Bill 80 enables us to effectively exercise that responsibility without needlessly burdening our customers.”
This past summer, a five-state survey by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) revealed consumer concerns about access to over-the-counter cold/cough and allergy medicines containing PSE. Of 2,027 users of OTC medicine for nasal allergies, asthma and/or cold, cough or flu surveyed by Harris Poll, the vast majority said they oppose proposed laws to change these medications to prescription-only status.
In the survey — conducted in Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Missouri — 98% of respondents who experienced cold, cough and flu symptoms and 88% of those with nasal allergies indicated that they buy nonprescription medication to treat their ailments. Over 70% of those experiencing these symptoms or allergies said they somewhat or very unfavorably view drug stores and supermarkets that remove medications containing PSE.
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