Columbia pharmacy demonstrates system to block meth cookers

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COLUMBIA- D&H Pharmacy demonstrated the electronic system in place to prevent individuals from illegally purchasing cold and allergy medications. The medications contain pseudoephedrine (PSE), the substance used to make meth.

Law enforcement uses the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx) to track purchases of substances containing PSE. The system prevents individuals from purchasing products with PSE once the individual has reached his or her daily or monthly limit. Missouri Pharmacy Association CEO Ron Fitzwater said the system is a joint venture between pharmacists and law enforcement to prevent illegal use of products with PSE.

"Missouri, like a number of other states, had a problem with methamphetamine," Fitzwater said. "We worked with law enforcement, with legislature, to put a system in to allow pharmacists to hopefully stop the sale of products going out to be used to cook meth."

Fitzwater said there was a push to make medications with PSE accessible by prescription only, but the current system allows patients to access products they need right away.

"There was a push to go to a mandatory prescription for over-the-counter products," Fitzwater said. "We tried to set a system that was somewhat in the middle, that gave us a couple checks and balances."

When a pharmacist scans an item containing PSE, NPLEx gives the pharmacist a response on the register screen. The system tracks how much the individual has purchased during the day and month and allows or denies permission for the individual to purchase the product based on his or her purchase history. 

Missouri had the most meth-related seizures through 2012 with 2,006 incidents, according to Missouri State Highway Patrol data. The state had 1,496 incidents in 2013 and 1,045 incidents in 2014. Through August 2015, MSHP reported 381 meth-related incidents throughout the state and 30 in mid Missouri. According to Jim Gwinner, a consumer health spokesperson, system analytics showed NPLEx has blocked the sale of more than 25,000 boxes of products containing PSE through the first half of 2015. 

According to the DEA, meth is a schedule II stimulant. This means it has a high potential for abuse and limited medical use.