Pseudoephedrine control moving on-line

July 23, 2007

Pseudoephedrine tracking systems improve on the log book to reduce burden on pharmacies and help law enforcement.

Less than a year after pharmacies were required to maintain logbooks of pseudoephedrine sales, law enforcement officials have a simple message for pharmacists: Thank you for your hard work, and get ready for the next stage. "The logbook was a great first step and [on-line tracking] is the logical next step," argued Van Ingram of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.

Congress passed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, which classified all nonprescription pseudoephedrine (PSE), ephedrine (EPH), and phenylpropanolamine (PPA) products as "scheduled listed chemical products." The law required a log entry for sales of more than 60 mg of PSE and required the customer to show a federal- or state-issued photo ID.

That logbook entry, however, quickly became a major headache for retailers. Many pharmacists have reported that using paper logbooks has caused lines in the store and that law enforcement officials rarely if ever look at the books. Still, the cost of noncompliance can be high: $25,000 and up to two years in jail. Just as important, paper logbooks make it easy for methamphetamine producers to skirt the law, purchasing small amounts of PSE from multiple locations.

Walgreens, on the other hand, has developed its own electronic logbook. "The system is fully integrated chainwide," reported Carol Hively, a Walgreens spokeswoman. "If you go to a Walgreens in Illinois and buy the limit, you would not be successful in crossing the state line into Indiana."

Still, many pharmacies have hesitated to invest in an electronic system, worrying that state or federal officials may develop their own systems. In fact, according to Ingram, Kentucky has been using an electronic system in one county and plans to roll it out statewide later this year. The system, MethCheck from Appriss, is already being used in close to 7,000 pharmacies in 43 states. "What I hear is that they want it at the POS, streamlined, and as customer-friendly as we can make it," Ingram said. "And that is our goal too."