SPECIAL COVERAGE: 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500

Local pharmacists could decide whether to sell you cold medicine

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INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 19, 2016) – It could soon be up to your local pharmacist to decide whether to sell you common cold medicine, like Sudafed.

A proposal debated at the Statehouse Tuesday would give pharmacists that discretion as part of an effort to crack down on meth production statewide.

“This is what I do for a living,” Ben Rachwal said, the owner of Custom Plus Pharmacy in Lafayette. “I do it every day.”

The proposal in Senate Bill 80 would allow pharmacists to use their professional judgment and deny the sale of pseudoephedrine to any they deem suspicious.

The action, supporters testified, could act as a first-line of defense aimed at stopping meth producers from buying pseudoephedrine.

“They are fed up with what’s going on in their pharmacies every day with obvious meth users standing in line,” Paul Andry said, a veteran narcotics detective.

The concern, though, lawmakers heard is that ordinary Hoosiers looking to remedy a cold or sinus infection could wrongly be denied.

“I think you get dangerously close to profiling,” Kelly McClure said, president of McClure Oil Corporation. “After hearing the testimony today, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to show up in front of the pharmacist. Am I supposed to show up like I am today? Or should I be in my sweats and hair all messy and look like I’m suffering?”

National interests have eyed the measure, including drug company representatives.

“When you’re making a medical evaluation on a product that’s already over the counter, there can be a lot of mistakes made,” Carlos Gutierrez said, with the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. “There could be increased liability for a pharmacist.”

Andry, who testified he’s investigated more than 2,000 meth labs, wants a required prescription for pseudoephedrine. But with that appearing unlikely this session, he said this measure is a good first step, despite a potential inconvenience to customers.

“Not very many people have died from a head cold,” he said. “But kids are dying in meth labs every day and people are dying from meth-related illnesses every day.”

Another measure debated Tuesday and receiving widespread support would prohibit the sale of pseudoephedrine to convicted drug felons.

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