Indiana lawmakers’ latest effort to thwart meth makers will likely make life more difficult for law-abiding Hoosiers trying to deal with a stuffy nose.
On Wednesday, a House Courts and Criminal Code Committee heard testimony about Senate Bill 496, which has already won approval in the Senate. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, lowers the limit on the amount of over-the-counter decongestants containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine people can buy to 61.2 grams a year.
To get more than what equates to about an eight months’ supply of decongestant – medicine long ago proven so safe and effective that regulators deemed it could be sold over the counter – would require a doctor’s prescription.
Pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient in methamphetamine, an illicit drug wreaking havoc in too many Indiana communities. And as Julie Crothers’ story today explains, methamphetamine busts are at an all-time high statewide.
The goal of the bill, to limit access to meth-making ingredients, is understandable. The Indiana Conference of Mayors listed state legislation curbing meth as a top priority.
An earlier version of the legislation required a doctor’s prescription for all pseudoephedrine purchases, but was wisely removed.
The bill does include some reasonable measures that specifically target those convicted of meth-related crimes as well as increase the penalties for using the medicines for criminal purposes.
Those provisions notwithstanding, lawmakers may be overlooking the unintended burden that stricter limits will place on people who use the medicine correctly.
How lawmakers decided on an eight-month supply of the drug is curious. It seems an arbitrary guess, not a decision made after consultation with medical experts.
In any event, some people take the medication every day to control allergy symptoms. And the proposed limits will place an added burden on families with several people afflicted with allergies.
We do find that that’s a significant problem for heads of households who are buying for their whole family, said Liana Burns, manager of policy and programs for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. There are allergies that occur year-round, and many people use them (decongestants) to treat cold symptoms as well – which tend to be worse in the winter, and that needs to be taken into account as well.
A nationwide poll conducted for the Foundation found 94 percent of the respondents manage medications for two or more people in their household.
The increased limits may help for a while, but meth makers soon will find a way around this obstacle just as they have found a way around previous laws adopted to curtail meth production. The change will always cause hardship for those with colds and allergies.