Better on Paper

Anti-meth law not being enforced, report says

Published in CSP Daily News

AUSTIN, Texas -- Eight months after legislators moved to crack down on methamphetamine, regulators in Texas have not inspected a single pharmacy or convenience store to check whether retailers are recording who buys drugs that contain meth ingredients, according to The Dallas Morning News.

A tough new law was meant to track repeat buyers of over-the-counter drugs containing pseudoephedrine, which are used to make meth. Lawmakers said they believed that meth cooks would stop buying precursor drugs such as Sudafed if they had to show identification. But [image-nocss] the logs are handwritten, making a systematic check of buyers across a region impossible. And state regulators, such as those from the Texas State Board of Pharmacy, acknowledge that they have not checked handwritten logs, which are piling up in pharmacies across the state, the report said.

It is one of those things that probably sounded better on paper than it does in action, Jim Martin, executive director of the Texas Pharmacy Association, told the newspaper. I am not even sure who is regulating or inspecting the thing.

Karen Tannert, chief pharmacist for the Department of State Health Services, said health inspectors would begin examining the logs once the agency approves its rules for enforcing the law. We just have not gotten that far, she told the paper. This is a brand new program. When you start at the bottom floor, you have the build the program.

Under the law, customers with allergies or colds are forced to wait at the pharmacy to get the drugs, can buy only limited quantities, and must provide their names and driver's license numbers.

An increasing number of states have passed or are looking at passing similar restrictions.

Although Texas has no immediate plans to abandon the paper trail, State Representative Leo Berman, who wrote the tougher meth law, said he has talked to a Kentucky company that offers software to track buyers through data encoded on driver's licenses.

Texas law prohibits customers from buying more than two packages at a time. A store cannot sell more than 9 grams of pseudoephedrineabout about 300 pillsto a single customer during a 30-day period. The Patriot Act, renewed this month by Congress, contains an anti-methamphetamine provision that limits consumers to buying 120 pills a day.

Gay Dodson, executive director of the Texas State Board of Pharmacy, told the Morning News that she believed that most pharmacies are complying with the law's requirements. But by imposing the selling limits on retailers, the law leaves the door open to people buying from multiple retailers. The way the Texas law is written, you could go in every day and buy, Ms. Dodson said.

Police agencies, which pressed for the new regulations, said the logs have been useful for their investigations. A Department of Public Safety official said investigators studied logs to show that one suspect bought multiple packages of the drugs in pharmacies ranging from Marble Falls to Georgetown.

According to the paper, DEA officials said the majority of criminal cases against retailers have involved convenience stores. Under Texas law, the stores must have a certificate to sell products containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, another decongestant that, in higher doses, can be abused as a stimulant.

Like pharmacies, c-stores have moved drugs containing pseudoephedrine behind the counter. But many stores are selling the drugs without a permit, and the agency responsible for monitoring them has not inspected any stores.

At several c-stores in Austin and Dallas, employees admitted they do not keep the logs. They professed ignorance about the new regulations and wondered aloud whether they were allowed to sell the products, said the report. At a Shell Food Mart in east Austin, a store supervisor said he would stop selling cold and allergy medicine if he had to ask customers for a driver's license. It's a convenience storeit's supposed to be convenient, Karim Maredia told the paper.

Restrictions on pseudoephedrine sales:

Customers must show photo ID and sign for the purchase of drugs containing pseudoephedrine. Stores are prohibited from selling a customer more than two packages of drugs in a single transaction. Pharmacies may not sell more than 9 grams of medicine 300 30-milligram tablets to a single customer within a 30-day period. C-stores must obtain certificates from the State Department of Health Services to sell drugs that contain pseudoephedrine and record the buyer's name and the number of his driver's license or state ID card.