Chesterton Tribune

Meth law to track cold medicine sales in real time

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COLUMBUS, Ind. (AP) — A new Indiana law will help pharmacists and police track sales of cold medicines in real time as the state pushes forward with efforts to stop those making and dealing methamphetamine.

The law that takes effect Jan. 1 requires retailers selling ephedrine and pseudoephedrine to enter information about buyers and their purchases in an electronic database. The system will issue “stop-sale” alerts if buyers try to purchase more than the allowable limit within a 30-day period. That limit has been reduced to 7.2 grams — or about 240 cold pills — from 9 grams.

Buyers can purchase a maximum of 3.6 grams in a single day.

The information entered in the National Precursor Log Exchange, or NPLE, will be available to police officers, who will be able to see when and where people are buying the drugs and how much they are purchasing.

Police say the database is less cumbersome than the current system, which can require officers to visit pharmacies and collect log books containing customer names and addresses and amounts of the drugs sold. Some of those logs can be hundreds of pages, and officers say it’s time-consuming to sort through names looking for known meth offenders and those who’ve exceeded the limits.

Police responded to 1,395 meth lab incidents across Indiana last year — 31 more labs than in 2009.

“Anything that can curb the epidemic of meth . I support any legislation,” said Bartholomew County Sheriff Mark Gorbett, whose county ranked sixth in the state, with 63 meth labs.

Police say the electronic system can help detect patterns that would indicate several people were working together to buy ingredients for meth.

Larry Sage, executive vice president of Indiana Pharmacists Alliance, said the “stop sale” alerts take pressure off pharmacists and will allow them to tell customers the computer won’t let them complete the sale because of the law.

“It puts you out of the position of having to make a judgment call,” he told The Republic in Columbus.

Pat Cashen, owner of Doctors Park Pharmacy in Columbus, said a law making pseudoephedrine and ephedrine available only with a doctor’s prescription would make more sense.

But Cashen, who no longer sells pseudoephedrine off the shelf after a string of robberies by people who stole drugs, thinks the new law will help.

“The old method doesn’t stop people from going to multiple places to buy the maximum amount. This will stop that,” he said.

“This meth problem is over the top.”


Posted 7/11/2011