Pharmacy tracking has not slowed Tennessee meth production

January 30, 2014

Not much has changed in the two years since Tennessee went on the NPLEx system and began tracking -- and blocking -- purchases of cold medications containing pseudoephedrine.

Tennessee’s effort to curb meth production by tracking and limiting the sale of medicines containing pseudoephedrine has not significantly decreased the illegal trade, according to a report from the state’s comptroller’s office.

Back in 2012, Tennessee started using a statewide computer system to track and limit purchases of cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine. The NPLEx system blocks sales to buyers who have already bought up to 3.6 g of pseudoephedrine at a time or up to 9 g in a month.

Since the state began using NPLEx, the number of meth lab incidents reported by law enforcement “has not decreased substantially and remains at high levels,” according to a study released in January by the Comptroller’s Offices of Research and Education Accountability. In 2012 there were 1,811 meth lab seizures in Tennessee. From January to the end of October 2013, there had been 1,485.

Law enforcement officials said meth producers have been able to game the system by “smurfing”-which is recruiting numerous people to buy pseudoephedrine products for them.

Between 2008 and 2012, Tennessee and Missouri reported the two highest numbers of meth lab incidents in the nation, according to the comptroller’s report. 


The comptroller’s report has some in Tennessee calling for a prescription-only law, which would restrict pseudoephedrine sales to people with prescriptions. A similar measure failed to gain enough support last year.