usa-map usa-map

Learn more about the dangers of smurfing here

Learn more

Cutting It Off At The Source

4.21.16– Cody Mroczka, Lake News Online

Going back to the turn of the century, the sale of Pseudoephedrine (PSE), a commonly used nasal/sinus decongestant and stimulant found in multiple over-the-counter medications, started becoming an issue as meth labs started popping up around the country, said Rich Bhandari, Director of Pharmacy for Woods Supermarket.

“States began putting regulations on the sale of PSE, but there was no real way to track it besides the paper way — basically a log book — of putting in all their information manually,” Bhandari said. “One pharmacist knew what they bought, but they could go across the street and fill out someone’s else log book and go purchase that much more. Law enforcement would have to dig through multiple log books. It just wasn’t a good system.”

In 2006, the federal government passed the Combat Meth Act, which took PSE off the aisles and shelves and put it back behind the counter, but it’s still a non-prescription medication in most places. That’s where the need for a national logging and tracking system stemmed.

Three years later, the Missouri state legislature passed a bill enabling the state to go to an electronic blocking system and implemented the National Pre-cursor Log Exchange (NPLEx), currently used by 32 states around the country to track how much PSE is being sold.

Under federal law, an adult is allowed to purchased 3.2-grams of PSE per day, 9-grams per 30-day period, and 108-grams per year.

Sergeant Shawn Griggs of the Missouri State Highway Patrol Drugs and Crimes Division said those numbers are reasonable and the exchange isn’t used for people trying to get their family through flu season, it’s used for people who are attempting to purchase PSE multiple times a day in multiple stores.

“It’s become more difficult to contain PSE. There are numerous ways to make methamphetamine, but the one common denominator is PSE, you have to have it,” Griggs said. “Investigators are able to track purchases, how many and how many blocks to get to the main component before the meth is even made.”

Griggs said the NPLEx system is “used all the time” by investigators to monitor suspects and has definitively decreased the amount of meth labs and meth-related incidents in the state. Troopers in northern Missouri have communicated with law enforcement agencies in Iowa using the system and evidence collected from the database has been introduced as evidence in court for certain cases.

“We’ve been on surveillance investigations, received real-time notifications and have actually stopped people right in the middle of cooking meth,” Griggs said. “Its been very successful.”

State Rep. Dan Shaul (R-113) and Director of Missouri Grocers Association said most retailers, from local to regional to national, use the NPLEx system in real time, which he believes is the key to it’s success.

“There’s no additional software that the retailer has to buy, they just have to make the commitment to use the system. There’s no charge to the states to use this system,” Shaul said. “It protects the consumers privacy, that’s a non issue, and it sees across state lines.”

Bhandari explained that when a customer goes to purchase a product with PSE, the pharmacist either scans or manually enters the customer’s driver’s license information into the log and it tells the pharmacist if the customer should be sold to or not based on previous purchases within the federal guidelines.

“If you’re blocked it prints out a receipt and gives you a number to call if the consumers wants a form of redress, that’s a way to get more information,” Jim Gwinner, spokesman for the Consumer Health Products Association said. “It’s free for pharmacies to use, even in rural Missouri where a small local pharmacy may not be sophisticated, they can still go online and log into the national database and enter the information manually. They don’t need a point-of-sale system.”

According to Gwinner, through the end of 2015 in Missouri, there were more than 45,375 boxes blocked of PSE for sale at the point of pharmacy. What that equates to, he said, is more than 117,578 grams of PSE that stayed out of the hands of folks who had other than healthcare purposes in mind.

Read more here.