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Senate Committee Endorses Alternatives To Prescription-only Cold Medicine

Melanie Holtsman

A proposal to make some cold remedies prescription-only is taking a back seat, with a Senate committee instead endorsing a pair of less stringent alternatives.

Senators voted to ban drug offenders from buying medication with pseudoephedrine, and to require pharmacists to question purchasers in a way that satisfies pharmacists the drugs won’t later become meth.

Fulton County pharmacists have taken that step on their own.

Pharmacist Harry Webb says it's not hard to tell -- he says people shopping for meth ingredients go straight for the largest packages, while people with legitimate cold-and-allergy problems will have symptoms, and often will ask the pharmacist on their own what they can take.

But Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis), one of two senators to vote no, worries that pharmacists may refuse to sell to minorities or other purchasers who don’t, in his words, “look right.”

And Consumer Health Care Products Association spokesman Carlos Gutierrez says the pharmacist Q-and-A bill would create liability concerns.

“The nation’s largest retailer, headquartered in Arkansas, stopped selling pseudoephedrine altogether because of the liability concerns – other chains as well,” Gutierrez says. “That, in essence, is tantamount to a prescription-only policy.”

A House committee plans to hear a prescription-only bill next week, after initially signaling it wouldn't.

The House will also consider a bill requiring a prescription only for amounts above a state-mandated limit.

Senate Corrections and Criminal Law chairman Mike Young (R-Indianapolis), who authored the drug-offender ban, says the votes aren't there for a prescription bill.

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