Should pharmacists be able to deny pseudoephedrine sales?

February 26, 2016

Pharmacists see it frequently-customers making multiple purchases of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine products and seeking out the highest dosage.

Pharmacists see it frequently-customers making multiple purchases of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine products and seeking out the highest dosage.

But even when the pharmacist suspects that the purchases will be used to illegally manufacture methamphetamine products, often there is little the pharmacist can do to stop it.

Editor’s Choice: Restrictions on pseudoephedrine sales foiling illegal meth labs

Right now, when a customer attempts to purchase ephedrine or pseudoephedrine products in Indiana, pharmacists can check the state database to see if that customer has purchased too much or is prohibited from buying it. However, pharmacists, law enforcement officials, and some politicians say illegal meth producers have learned to foil that system by using multiple identifications and by pharmacy hopping.

In an attempt to short circuit illegal meth production, Indiana state legislators are considering a law that would allow pharmacists to use their discretion when it comes to deciding who can purchase pseudoephedrine products such as Sudafed. In other words, the pharmacists could simply refuse to make the sale. The bill was recently passed out of committee but has yet to be considered by the full Senate.

Senate Bill 80 would allow pharmacists to deny the sale of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine on the basis of the pharmacist's professional judgment, and provides the pharmacist with civil immunity for making such a denial.

The bill would also authorize the state board of pharmacy to discipline pharmacists who violate rules concerning a professional determination made concerning the sale of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.

 

W. Randy Hitchens, MBA, executive vice president of the Indiana Pharmacists Alliance, said the measure would help curb illegal methamphetamine products while making sure patients in need of such products can still get them. He said it has worked successfully in pilot programs elsewhere.

“[The measure] leverages the pharmacist’s professional judgement to assure that pseudoephedrine is provided to patients with a clinical need and not sold to random customers for illegal manufacturing of methamphetamine,” Hitchens told Drug Topics.

“Our state pharmacist association will work with the Indiana Board of Pharmacy to shape the legitimization process and reporting, and educate our Indiana pharmacists, technicians, and student pharmacists on the law, implementation, and regulatory processes," he said.

A similar bill, sponsored by State Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn), has already been passed by members of the Indiana House of Representatives.

“My proposal is designed to protect law-abiding Hoosiers. It would not enact a full prescription requirement on pseudoephedrine in Indiana or add pseudoephedrine to the list of controlled substances,” Smaltz stated in a release.

“The common consumer who needs to purchase pseudoephedrine in order to fight their symptoms will still be able to,” he said. “This bill would work to curb meth production by restricting access to pseudoephedrine for meth cooks, and hindering the practice of smurfing which is when individuals purchase large quantities of these products for illegal purposes.”