DAYTON (AP) — A proposal in the House aimed at curbing illegal methamphetamine labs would require retailers to digitally track sales of some over-the-counter allergy and cold medications used to make the drug.
The legislative proposal comes as authorities in Ohio are reporting a resurgence of meth labs, including one at a nursing home in northeast Ohio that caught fire, killing one person and injuring six others.
The bill sponsored by Republican state Rep. Terry Johnson of McDermott would allow real-time tracking of medications used to make the highly addictive stimulant through a national exchange and would apply to pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, the Dayton Daily News reported Friday. Those ingredients are used in at-home and portable meth labs, which can lead to explosions and fires such as the one March 4 at Park Haven Home in Ashtabula.
In addition to causing fires and explosions, the blend of toxic chemicals used in what is called the shake-and-bake method of making the drug are hazardous to children, property owners and law enforcement officers who investigate and clean up the labs.
Ohio in 2006 began requiring purchasers of pseudoephedrine to sign a log book, and officials say meth manufacturers have since turned to portable labs for smaller batches. The one pot or shake-and-bake labs now use a 2-liter bottle or other container to mix the ingredients.
The one-pot method also has increased the drug’s purity. The price per pure gram of meth decreased from $270 in late 2007 to $105 in late 2010, while the purity increased from 39 percent to 83 percent, according to data from the National Drug Intelligence Center.
“Meth manufacturers have figured out that by pharmacy shopping, they can purchase enough pseudoephedrine and skirt around the law,” said Scott Duff, the Special Agents Supervisor at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation who testified Wednesday before the Ohio House’s Health Committee.
House Bill 334 would link data on purchases of the over-the-counter medications to law enforcement by forcing drug retailers and pharmacies to participate in the National Precursor Log Exchange. The exchange already is being used in 20 states, including Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan, and some Ohio pharmacies already participate, Duff said.
The exchange’s website says that the real-time tracking not only provides law enforcement with immediate information but also enables the blocking of sales that would exceed legal limits. When a transaction is submitted by a retailer that would exceed the limits, a message is instantly sent to the retailer recommending denial of the sale. A manual override can be used if the clerk feels in danger, and law enforcement is notified that the sale might have exceeded the limits.
The Ohio Council of Retail Merchants supports the bill. Lora Miller, a spokeswoman for the group, told the House committee that changes such as allowing employees to override a stop-sale notice due to safety concerns helped gain the council’s support.
The Ohio Pharmacists Association is remaining neutral on the proposed legislation.
Electronic logs probably will be easier than the paper ones pharmacists already have to keep, but the association wants to be sure that nothing in the bill would slow down the work flow or cost pharmacists money, said spokeswoman Kelly Vyzral.
“We have been assured that won’t be the case,” Vyzral said.
Meth’s cost to society has been estimated to be $16.2 billion to $48.3 billion, according to a 2009 Rand Corp. study.
The 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health said 1.2 million Americans age 12 and older had abused meth at least once in the prior year.