Database Would Track Oklahoma Pseudoephedrine

Sunday, February 6th 2005, 2:44 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ An online database could make it easier to track the sale of pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient in methamphetamine.

A computer tracking system would prevent people from buying more than nine grams a month of pseudoephedrine, a common decongestant found in cold tablets, said Lonnie Wright, director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Dangerous Drugs and Control.

House Bill 2176, the state's anti-meth law which was enacted in April, restricts tablet sales of pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient of meth.

Gov. Brad Henry is seeking legislation to create an online database between pharmacies.

The anti-meth law requires specific types of decongestant medicines which contains pseudoephedrine be placed behind pharmacy counters. Buyers show their identification and sign a logbook when they make a purchase.

The trouble is, Wright said, that some people who reach their limit at one pharmacy go to another pharmacy to buy more pseudoephedrine. The pharmacies have no way of checking with each other immediately to determine whether buyers have exceeded the legal limit.

Under the plan, a computer tracking system in real time would connect the bureau with each pharmacy, Wright said.

``When you came to buy pseudoephedrine, it would either authorize or deny that transaction based on how much you had purchased in the previous 30 days at any pharmacy anywhere in the state,'' Wright said.

If a person exceeds the limit, the transaction would be denied, Wright said.

Phil Woodward, executive director of the Oklahoma Pharmacists Association, said pharmacists support the idea of an online database.

``It's a great idea,'' Woodward said. ``Obviously it's been kind of rough to keep track of folks coming in and out of stores.''

Woodward said his organization supported an online database between pharmacies when the anti-methamphetamine legislation was being written. Pharmacists, however, didn't have the finances to pay for the software, he said.

``It actually probably would wind up being a lot easier for us when somebody comes in the store to look in the computer and it will bring all the information up for us, so we don't have to go back and look through logs and trying to find somebody's name,'' Woodward said.

Wright said anyone buying more than nine grams of pseudoephedrine is using it for purposes other than for medicine.

``About five grams is as much, if you took it steady for a 30-day period, that you would need,'' Wright said. ``You're not supposed to take it steady.''

Wright said gel capsules and liquid medicine containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine wouldn't be affected because they cannot be easily converted into methamphetamine. Those types of medicine can be bought at grocery and other stores.

If approved, a system could be operational in about six months, Wright said.

Henry said the success of the anti-meth legislation encourages him, ``but there is more we can and should do. ... This lethal drug has wreaked havoc on far too many families for us to ease up now.''

Henry also is pushing for federal legislation to mirror Oklahoma's restrictions on pseudoephedrine sales. He's asked U.S. Reps. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, and Tom Cole, R-Moore, to help with a proposed bill.

Former U.S. Rep. Brad Carson, D-Claremore, submitted legislation in May aimed at restricting access nationally to the widely available chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine. The measure failed to advance.

Meth lab seizures have dropped more than 70 percent since the state's anti-methamphetamine law was enacted in April, bureau figures show.