Pseudoephedrine is a safe and effective over-the-counter drug, approved by the Food and Drug Administration to help sick people manage their symptoms in order to be more productive and less miserable. Some in the Indiana state legislature are determined to make this drug prescription-only, and this session saw a move in that direction with legislation to mandate drug felons get a prescription for pseudoephedrine while leaving the rest of us alone.
The problem is, people who have committed drug crimes get sick too. Even after they have served their time and even if they are now productive members of society, these people will now be forced to go to the doctor to get a prescription for a nasal decongestant. They will be forced to take time off work, assuming someone with a felony conviction will be able to find a job in the first place. They will have to pay extra out-of-pocket costs to a general practitioner or urgent care clinic, and will place more cost on insurance companies. If they are on Medicaid, we will all be paying for this.
This is a giveaway to the medical industry. The Republican supermajority in the state legislature has just mandated more business for the state’s doctors and urgent care clinics, business that the people who simply need an over-the-counter remedy for cold symptoms would not otherwise give to those doctors. This unnecessary legislation is corporate welfare that will not do anything to eliminate the problem of methamphetamine use in the state of Indiana.
It is also easy to do an end run around the Republican mandate. Here is the obvious solution for drug felons who are sick and need relief: Hand some cash to a friend and send him to the pharmacy to buy the medicine over the counter, avoiding the roadblock the Republican legislature has placed between you and your cold medicine. It is also worth pointing out that even if we magically eliminated every home meth lab in the state, we would only reduce meth use by twenty percent. This is because (as I have pointed out before) eighty percent of the methamphetamine in Indiana comes from Mexico.
Make no mistake about it: This is a classic example of the “slippery slope.” Legislators who love the nanny state but know it is not politically feasible to mandate a prescription for everyone in the state have passed this as a step in that direction. We know they will not give up that cause because they have tried it before. When this initiative inevitably fails (and it will fail) nanny state apologists will say that we did not go far enough and we now need to do more to fight meth use. A better option would be for the Republican supermajority to stop meddling in the health care decisions of people who simple want some relief during cold and flu season.