Manufacturers of pseudoephedrine, a popular decongestant that is also a key ingredient for making methamphetamine, are offering to pay for real-time electronic tracking of purchases so Tennessee won't start requiring prescriptions.Dueling bills are likely in the General Assembly as law enforcement officers push for a prescription requirement while the Consumer Healthcare Products Association pitches its tracking system.
"What we are asking legislators to do is just consider a balance because there's really an appropriate point for allowing legitimate access for consumers," said Mandy N. Hagan, director of state government relations for the association. "The vast majority of these sales are clearly not being used to make meth."
But state law officials say the association's plan won't work because meth makers have devised a method for getting around tracking systems, including one the state already has.
Tennessee last year surpassed its previous record for meth lab seizures, set in 2004. Seizures totaled 2,082 — a 45 percent rise from 2009 and 33.5 percent higher than the old record.
Although the southeast corner of the state is the hot spot for meth labs, there has been an uptick in Middle Tennessee. The most dramatic increase was in Sumner County, which had 13 seizures compared with one in 2009. Seizures were also up in Davidson, Wilson and Robertson counties.
The prior record for seizures was set before Tennessee enacted a 2005 law that required purchasers to present identification and mandated pharmacies to keep logs for an electronic reporting system. Lab incidents plunged after its enactment.
But meth makers began "smurfing" around the law by recruiting people to buy pseudoephedrine at multiple locations, including neighboring states. This backdoor supply system and an easier method for making meth have caused the number of labs to surge. Meth can now be made in 2-liter soda bottles with the "shake-and-bake" system.
Officer supports lawLast year, Mississippi started requiring prescriptions. (Oregon is the only other state to do so.) Tommy Farmer, director of the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force, thinks it's a good idea. In the six months after the Mississippi law took effect July 1, lab seizures fell 76 percent.
“On top of that, we border Mississippi,” Farmer said. “I’ve got other ways of looking at and verifying their data. I’m seeing a significant increase in Tennessee of suspicious pseudoephedrine sales by citizens from Mississippi. It’s an over 200 percent increase in the last six months.”
Tennessee law now requires people to present identification to buy pseudoephedrine and sets a limit on how much they can buy within a 30-day window. The drug can be purchased only at pharmacies, which must keep it behind the counter or under lock and key. Pharmacies must keep logs of all sales to customers, which are entered into an integrated network. Some provide the data on a real-time basis, but not all.
Twelve states participate in the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx), the tracking system sponsored by the Consumer Healthcare Product Association. They include border states Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky and Arkansas.
Kentucky blocks about 10,000 grams (22 pounds) of pseudoephedrine sales a month using NPLEx. Federal law forbids anyone from buying more than 9 grams a month.
NPLEx allows pharmacies to immediately recognize suspicious buyers and report them to authorities, the association's Hagan said. It is also an integrated system across state lines.
“The current system doesn’t do that,” Hagan said.
A prescription requirement would cause hardships for cold and allergy sufferers and result in about $1 million in lost sales tax revenue, Hagan said. Prescription drugs aren't subject to a sales tax.
Is it really any wonder that pharmaceutical companies do not want this medication made into a prescription? Why would they want this being made into prescription only when 77%-94% of their sales are coming from meth cooks? No business wants to lose that much revenue. There should be an exception when it comes to saving lives though.
The vast majority of PSE sales are not legitimate as stated in this story. In Indiana, they have estimated only 6% are legit. In KY they have estimated that only 23% of purchases are legitimate. The cold medicine group can say that most sales are legit all they want, but anyone that goes into a store and tries to buy a product containing PSE can see different. The shelves are usually sold out of the PSE products, yet NyQuil and other products are always stocked. Why would that be if the "vast majority" was being bought be cold sufferers? Wouldn't both medications be sold out? Way before they started putting PSE behind the counter stores had started having the isles watched by security cameras or the medication moved to within site of the cash register because so many people were stealing it. Why would they want this being made into prescription only when 77%-94% of their sales are coming from meth cooks? No business wants to lose that much revenue.
Also, tracking systems do not work. KY has the tracking system and they had a record number of busts last year. Mandatory long term sentences for meth manufactures should be implemented, but that doesn't work either. Every meth cook teaches 10 more people how to cook every year. It's just a cycle. The goal should not be to track and watch to make arrests to lock up as many people as possible for as long as possible using the most manpower possible. The goal should be to eliminate labs period. PSE is the one and only ingredient meth can not be made without.
Finally, and most importantly, there are children burning to death or being severely poisoned by the toxic fumes. One girl, here in TN, had to have plastic chiseled off of her before they could even start treating after her parents lab caught on fire. Other children have died by drinking drain cleaner and other chemicals their druggie parents have left out. I can't believe some people are so selfish that they would rather things like this continue to happen so they don't have to be "inconvenienced".