INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The leaders of Indiana communities hit hard by methamphetamine are arguing for a state law requiring prescriptions to buy cold and allergy pills that contain the key meth ingredient of pseudoephedrine.
But opponents of the prescription requirement say it would be a more expensive and time consuming step for law-abiding citizens that isn't a proven way to stem the spread of meth abuse.
Indiana has long been at the center of the national meth epidemic and had the third-most meth lab seizures of any state last year. State lawmakers are considering a proposal to tighten existing limits on pseudoephedrine purchases, but mayors and some police groups say that even tougher steps are needed as communities face explosions and toxic chemical cleanups tied to meth cooking.
Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke plans to testify before an Indiana House committee on Wednesday about the troubles that meth production have caused in his city, where the number of meth labs found has jumped from 20 or 30 several years ago to more than 100 each of the past two years.
Winnecke calls meth the No. 1 public safety problem in the state's third-largest city, citing the fires, explosions and contaminations stemming from production of the illegal drug.
"It's enormously time consuming," he said. "It's outrageously expensive."
A bill pending in the House and approved by the state Senate last month would allow a consumer to buy up to 61 grams a year of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. Current law limits purchases to 7.2 grams a month.
The proposal also would require all stores selling medicines containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine to use a computerized system to track sales. A state law adopted two years ago requires pharmacies to use that tracking system, but convenience stores that sell only small packages are exempt.
Lawmakers over the last few years have declined to require prescriptions for the cold medicines.
Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, said he didn't believe people with allergies and occasional illnesses should face the additional costs and hassles of getting prescriptions and that those people would still be able to buy enough medicine under the tighter limits proposed under the bill he's sponsoring.
"To innocent people who need it, those limits aren't going to come into play," Yoder said. "But for those people who are buying this product to make meth, those limits will come into play because they need to buy stuff and get as much as they can."
Federal law requires stores to keep pseudoephedrine-based products behind the counter, and two states — Mississippi and Oregon — require a prescription.