A New Weapon Against Meth Abuse

A pilot program goes after meth "runners."

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The federal drug czar's office has shown preliminary interest in a new Internet-based program from an Australian maker to track pharmacy purchases of pseudoephedrine, which can be abused to make methamphetamine. "There was interest," said MethShield maker Shaun Singleton.

But first, Singleton is testing in Kansas the system that's credited with cutting by half the number of methamphetamine labs in parts of Australia's Queensland state. After that, he will make a further case to the U.S. government that this method will help reduce meth abuse.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Kansas State Board of Pharmacy joined this month to put a pilot MethShield program in place. Singleton says that his program alerts local police every time a purchase of pseudoephedrine, used in products such as Sudafed, is made. The aim is not to track individual purchases but to determine if a pattern of buys by meth "runners" is emerging.

Since 2006, U.S. law has banned over-the-counter sales of cold medicines that contain the ingredient pseudoephedrine, such as Sudafed. Regulations put restrictions on sales, including requiring photo ID. Alternative formulations that are not prone to abuse, such as Sudafed PE, continue to be sold without restrictions.

MethShield targets meth runners who bounce from drugstore to drugstore to buy enough to make the illegal drug. Once a pattern is discovered, Singleton said, police can set up a sting at the store where the next purchase is expected.

He said that a key issue in making the program a national one is whether it will be controlled and operated locally, by states or by federal authorities. "It's always about who is going to run these things," he said.