WV pharmacies prepare for NPLEx pseudoephedrine blocker - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

WV pharmacies prepare for NPLEx pseudoephedrine blocker

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In another government step to try to keep pseudoephedrine out of meth cooks' hands, a new law will bring a new tool to the fight.

The National Precursor Log Exchange, or NPLEx, will be implemented in every pharmacy throughout the state by Jan. 1, 2013.

NPLEx is already used in 23 other states, including Kentucky and Virginia, and in West Virginia it's the second major step pharmacies have taken in the fight against meth. The first was six years ago when cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine went behind the pharmacy counter with purchase limits.

"The pharmacies are very glad to have this system in place," said Bridget Lambert, president of the West Virginia Retailers Association. "This will allow us to refuse sales if a person reaches the daily, monthly or yearly limits."

Lambert said consumers will not see any changes during the sale of medicines and the system will bring the state into the 21st Century.

"Retailers take very seriously the meth epidemic," she said.

With the NPLEx system, pharmacists swipe a person's government ID, and it will immediately search its entire system to be sure that person hasn't already purchased the limit of pseudoephedrine, even across state lines. In Kentucky, NPLEx blocked more than 19,500 boxes of pseudoephedrine during the first quarter of 2012.

The system, including setup and maintenance, is paid for entirely by the manufacturers of cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine.

"We want to be part of the solution, and we know there is a problem with diversion, and we also believe in the rights of the consumer," said Carlos Gutierrez, director of government affairs for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

Gutierrez said drug abuse is not always easy to tackle, nor is it rewarding, but West Virginia's new law, with even tighter restrictions on the amounts of pseudoephedrine available each day, month and year, is one of the toughest laws in America.

"NPLEx is not an experiment," he said. "It is the logical next step in West Virginia in their continued fight against meth cooks, all the while maintaining access."

Jim Acquisto, vice president of government affairs for Appriss, said the NPLEx system takes about one-fourth of a second to respond once a customer's information is submitted.

He said NPLEx data also has been used in court, including in federal cases.

"It's a double-edged sword, and the front edge of the sword is where it blocks sales in the store," he said. "The back edge is the information provided to law enforcement.

"The key is it's real-time, and it's seamless across state lines and chains."

Lambert with  the Retailers Association said she hopes to have a large percentage of pharmacies integrated with NPLEx by late October.

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