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Archive for Monday, April 18, 2011

Kansas launches pharmacy tracking system

April 18, 2011

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— Kansas officials launched a new, electronic system Monday designed to better track the sale pharmaceuticals used in making methamphetamine.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt and representatives of the Board of Pharmacy said the new system, the National Precursor Log Exchange, instantly records sales of nonprescription drugs containing pseudoephedrine — a key ingredient in meth.

It’s the latest tool in the state’s campaign to reduce the production and sale of meth. Participation in the system was enabled by legislation passed by lawmakers earlier this year.

“Kansas has a serious methamphetamine problem,” Schmidt said.

Kansas joins nearly a dozen states that operate the electronic tracking system, including Arkansas and Missouri.

Much of the effort has focused on retail sales of pseudoephedrine. The decongestant is found in many cold and allergy medicines, but it’s also a key ingredient in meth.

Kansas passed a law in 2005 limiting the quantity of such nonprescription remedies that people can buy at one time. The medicines are kept behind pharmacy counters, and buyers have to sign a special register.

Schmidt said that law, passed before a similar federal law, has reduced the number of clandestine meth labs seized by law enforcement. He said the numbers have dropped from as high as 850 lab seizures annually in the late 1990s to between 120 and 150 presently.

“We’re not just starting this conversation today,” Schmidt said, a former state senator who helped write the 2005 Kansas law. “This doesn’t change that law.”

The new system replaces the paper tracking where customers were required to sign a log at the counter when purchasing the drugs. There is no cost for pharmacies to join the system, the senator said, with the cost of the new software required being funded by pharmaceutical manufacturers.

“We expect 100 percent participation,” said David Schoech, a Columbus pharmacist and member of the state board.

He said pharmacies could opt out, but then would have to either stop selling the medications entirely or require a prescription from a physician.

Sen. Vicki Schmidt, a Topeka Republican and pharmacist, said the new system will block those who abused the paper system by going from location to location to purchase the products to avoid the 9 gram limits per month at each store.

“It is the culmination of four years of work that will help track the sales of these methamphetamine precursor drugs,” she said.

The senator said some states, including Kansas, are considering passing a law requiring a prescription to purchase pseudoephedrine products. Oregon and Mississippi recently passed such laws. Pharmacists and law enforcement will know if someone has already purchased their limit for the month in any of the participating states and instantly block the sale.

The attorney general said the new system saves time for law enforcement that otherwise would have to go from pharmacy to pharmacy to gather the paper logs and enter the information in a database. The information will now be available instantly for routine checks and follow-up investigations.

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