Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Systems that track pseudoephedrine sales do not necessarily curb meth making, experiences of Ky. and other states show

Systems that track the sale of the key ingredient used to make methamphetamine have not decreased the manufacture of the highly addictive drug, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.

The analysis shows meth-related activity has risen by 65 percent in Kentucky since sales have been tracked. Kentucky is one of only three states nationwide that electronically monitors pseudoephedrine and ephedrine sales. Arkansas and Oklahoma also track their sales, and also had more meth-related incidents than the rest of the country — up by 34 percent in Arkansas and 164 percent in Oklahoma.

The tracking systems record the buyer's name during the purchase of the cold medications that contain pseudoephedrine. The system also limits how much of the drug can be bought at one time at one location. If a customer has already met the limit for the month, the pharmacist is immediately notified.

Supporters say the tracking systems make it easier for authorities to investigate meth-related crime, but critics say the systems promote "smurfing," in which "meth producers recruit friends, acquaintances, strangers and even their own children to buy pills," AP reports. "It's almost like a sub-criminal culture," said Drug Enforcement Administration agent Gary Boggs told the news service. "You'll see them with a GPS unit set up in a van with a list of every single pharmacy or retail outlet. They'll spend the entire week going store to store and buy to the limit."

Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain, a leading meth expert in Kentucky, defended the tracking systems. "One reason these numbers have gone up is because of law enforcement's ability to track and locate the people producing meth," he said. "If we pull the plug on electronic tracking, we lose the ability to see where these labs are at."

Despite the controversy, several other states are either implementing or considering the implementation of tracking systems. The move is cost effective and the pharmaceutical industry is is full support of it. "That is far cheaper than one alternative — making the medication available only by prescription," AP reports. (Read more)

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