If you want a common cold medication that has pseudoephedrine in it, you’d have to buy it from a pharmacist if a bill that cleared the House Public Safety Committee (Tuesday night) becomes law. Representative Kevin McCarthy, a democrat from Des Moines, says he is a convert to the idea that the cold pills used to make meth should be put behind the pharmacy counter. “We were told this time and time again by former (meth) cookers that they would not purchase from a pharmacist,” McCarthy says. The Iowa Senate last week approved a less-restrictive bill that would still let grocers and convenience stores sell cold meds if the pills were kept behind a counter, but McCarthy says the Senate approach doesn’t go far enough. “If we are going to do this, we should do it right,” McCarthy says. Representative Clel Baudler, a republican from Greenfield who’s a retired trooper, backs the tougher approach of putting cold remedies that contain pseudoephedrine behind a pharmacist’s counter. “We have an epidemic here in Iowa. It’s called methamphetamine. It’s a highly-addictive, illegal drug that has basically defied all our efforts to control its spread,” Baudler says. Baudler says his best friend is on the state patrol lab team, and Baudler says every time his friend goes to the site of a meth lab, his life is in danger. “I personally have to do everything I can to stop meth labs or try to stop meth lab,” Baudler says. Representative Bruce Hunter, a democrat from Des Moines, supported the tough restrictions as he says current state law isn’t working, since nearly 15-hundred illegal meth labs were discovered in Iowa last year. “If we are indeed fighting a war on meth right now, we are getting our butts handed to us,” Hunter says. But others, like Representative Betty De Boef — a republican from What Cheer, say rural residents will have to drive to the big city to get common cold decongestants on the weekend when their local pharmacies are closed. “I have very real concerns that my hometown grocers are going to lose business because instead of encouraging people to go to their hometown grocers, we’re encouraging them to go to Iowa City or Des Moines to do their shopping,” De Boef says. Representative Cecil Dolecheck, a republican from Mt. Ayr, agrees. “A lot of my citizens in rural Iowa do have a real problem with access, with one pharmacy where they can purchase it, and it’s open only on a limited basis and I think that’s a problem,” Dolecheck says. He says law-abiding citizens shouldn’t have to be put through such an inconvenience. Representative Lance Horbach, a republican from Tama, ridiculed the bill. “I am so disappointed because we’re dealing with a problem and we’re dealing with it just the way the public expects government to deal with it,” Horbach says. “We have a problem. The problem, folks, is people are stealing our pseudoephedrine products off the shelves. Government answer: steal it first.” Horbach says every legislator wants to get rid of meth, but Horbach says he’s one legislator who doesn’t want to penalize the 99.9 percent of law-abiding Iowans by restricting the access to medicine. House Republican leaders were not happy with the committee’s action, but the state’s top drug agent welcomed it. Ken Carter is the director of the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement. “Let’s go all the way. Let’s put this thing to bed. Let’s get (cold medications with pseudoephedrine) behind the pharmacy counter,” Carter says. The bill cleared the committee on a 13-to-eight vote, and must next be debated in the full, 100-member House.
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