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NPLEx Curbing Some Drug Crime

Either West Virginians are substantially healthier than they were last year or illegal drug "cooks" are having a lot more trouble finding the ingredients for their recipes. Beyond any reasonable doubt, the latter is the case.

Pseudoephedrine sales in the Mountain State have declined dramatically since last year, according to the West Virginia Retailers Association. While such a dropoff in sales normally would be viewed by store owners as a bad thing, it has been their strategy in this situation.

Medicines containing pseudoephedrine are popular cold and allergy treatments. But the substance can be "cooked" out of pills to produce illegal methamphetamines, which are a serious drug abuse problem in much of West Virginia.

During the first nine months of this year, sales of medicines containing pseudoephedrine were down 31 percent, compared to the same period in 2013, according to the association. That translates to 105,905 fewer boxes of the drugs being sold during the first nine months of this year.

By any standard, that is a major dropoff in sales. Again, it is by design.

Retailers worried about misuse of their products now use the NPLEx computerized system to track sales of medicines containing pseudoephedrine. That is why you must show a form of identification when buying some cold and allergy medicines.

The system keeps track of who buys medicines containing pseudoephedrine and how often they make purchases. Druggists have that information at their fingertips when someone tries to buy such medications. They can refuse to sell to people who are buying far too much for personal use – and they can share the information with law enforcement agencies.

Clearly, the NPLEx system has been effective in diverting pseudoephedrine from those who would use it to produce methamphetamines. Retailers are to be commended for embracing it, and legislators should welcome it as an effective method of taking a bite out of drug crime without having to restrict pseudoephedrine sales to West Virginians who need relief from colds and allergies.