PHARMACIES TO REPORT METH PURCHASES
Carterville – Methamphetamine makers are finding ways to evade the law by traveling from town to town, city to city, and state to state, accumulating large quantities of a key meth ingredient, pseudoephedrine (PSE), one package at a time. However, a new pilot program in southern Illinois will allow law enforcement officials and pharmacies in a six-county area to track these purchases through a central data base in an effort to identify and shut down the manufacture of meth in the area.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan joined Williamson County Sheriff Tom Cundiff and State Rep. John E. Bradley (D – Marion) today at John Logan College to announce a new - first of its kind for Illinois – tracking pilot, which will require 75 pharmacies in Williamson, Franklin, Jackson, Johnson, Saline and Union Counties to report to a central database the information collected from those purchasing PSE beginning October 1, 2008.
Sheriff Cundiff will run the pilot on behalf of the six counties with a $98,000 federal US Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant.
This system will be used to identify patterns of meth abuse and aid in the investigation and enforcement of meth laws, which will act as a deterrent in our fight against meth,” the Sheriff said.
Pill-shoppers, known as “smurfs,” purchase a small amount of PSE at one pharmacy, then do the same at another pharmacy, then another and so forth. Although each individual purchase may be legal, the combination of these multiple purchases often violates both state and federal law.
Attorney General Madigan drafted and Rep Bradley originally sponsored legislation that led to the law authorizing the pilot program. The program requires area pharmacies to report purchases to a central database, which will be monitored and flagged by area state and local police when meth related purchasing patterns are identified. The law took effect on June 1, 2008. Tracking and reporting will begin on October 1, 2008, following establishment of the data base and training for pharmacies and law enforcement officials is complete.
“The tremendous success we have had has forced meth makers into finding new tactics but we are aggressive in our efforts,” said Attorney General Madigan. “It is a great day when we can come together with legislators and law enforcement to announce new tools for fighting against meth manufacturing in our state.”
“I applaud the Attorney General Lisa Madigan's leadership on this issue,” said Rep. Bradley. “Working with local law enforcement and community groups like Williamson County CAMA, we continue to attack the epidemic of methamphetamine abuse plaguing our communities. I believe that innovative approaches like the one we are here for today are making a difference.”
The majority of pharmacies participating in the pilot will report purchasing information over Internet as most are already equipped with the necessary hardware, which is commonly used for verifying insurance information. Data collected will be confidential.
The federal grant is expected to cover operational expenses for the pilot program for approximately 12 months. Success of the pilot will be determined based on ability to track meth related drug purchases and subsequent increase in meth related arrests.
Restricting access to methamphetamine precursors (ingredients used in the making of meth) has been a critical component in statewide effort to slow the spread methamphetamine.
The Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act –initiated by Madigan and sponsored in the House by Bradley and in the Senate by State Sen. William Haine, took effect January 15, 2006. The law made pseudoephedrine and ephedrine – both key ingredients in meth – “schedule V controlled substances.” It required that all single and multi-active ingredient products, tablets, liquids and gel caps be placed behind the counter. Although customers wishing to purchase such products do not need a prescription, they must display a photo ID and sign a log.