Indiana Pharmacists Could Soon Snub Suspicious Pseudoephedrine Seekers

A bill advancing in Indiana would give pharmacists the legal right to stop suspicious customers from buying certain cold medications that are used to cook methamphetamine.

A bill advancing in Indiana would give pharmacists the legal right to stop suspicious customers from buying certain cold medications that are used to cook methamphetamine.

Indiana has led the nation in meth lab incidents for the last 3 years, according to Drug Enforcement Administration figures. Police seized a total of 1471 meth labs in the state in 2014 alone.

“The heart of this meth crisis is pharmacies in every county sell pseudoephedrine daily and knowing[ly] to smurfs, who sell it to cooks, who use it to immediately manufacture meth,” explained Harry Webb, RPh, owner of Webb’s Family Pharmacy in Fulton County, Indiana. “Pharmacy needs to step up and start legitimizing all pseudoephedrine sales, instead of turning a blind eye and trying to sell as much as possible.”

To give pharmacists the authority to do so, the Indiana Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law has cleared Senate Bill (SB) 80, which would allow pharmacists to require customers who they suspect of making meth to present a prescription when attempting to purchase medicine containing the key meth ingredient, pseudoephedrine.

A similar measure in the state House of Representatives, known as House Bill (HB) 1390, defines this process further and requires “patients of record” to be able to buy pseudoephedrine products at current National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx) limits if the pharmacist legitimizes the sale, Webb explained. Under HB 1390, non-patients would be offered meth-deterrent products or required to obtain a prescription upon their request for medicine containing pseudoephedrine.

If either version of this legislative effort becomes law, Webb hopes that it will expand the pharmacist’s role in preventing drug abuse while providing informed care to patients.

“I believe this is a great opportunity for pharmacy to solve a state crisis that is costing each county millions of dollars and demonstrate they [pharmacists] can treat their patients’ acute sinus symptoms…improving the pharmacist-patient relationship,” Webb told Pharmacy Times. “Our profession seeks increased recognition for pharmacist services and possibly provider status, but if we cannot demonstrate the ability to properly handle pseudoephedrine sales, how can we possibly ask for additional authority?”

Webb noted that patients in need of medicines containing pseudoephedrine shouldn’t worry about the pharmacist legitimization process.

“Patients will be able to get any of cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine like they do now, but pharmacists will be required to authorize the purchase in an effort to eliminate the large amount being diverted into meth making,” Webb said. “If you know your pharmacist, I would doubt you would experience any issues.”

SB 80 and HB 1390 aren’t the only measures on the table to fix the state’s meth problem.

SB 161, which passed the state Senate last year but failed in the House, is essentially an enhancement to NPLEx that would prevent all convicted drug offenders from purchasing pseudoephedrine products. According to Webb, SB 161 is currently assigned to an appropriations committee to determine whether it can be funded.

Webb believes the 2 Senate measures would complement each other.

However, he stated, “I believe our [pharmacists] best solution is SB 80.”