Missouri acquires new database to keep track of methamphetamine production

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 | 12:04 a.m. CST; updated 4:21 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 7, 2010

*CORRECTION: The software company that will implement the database is Apriss, Inc. A previous version of this story misspelled the company name.

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Jay Nixon announced Monday the acquisition of a new statewide database to help stop methamphetamine production.

The database will keep tabs on buyers of pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in methamphetamine production. It will also prevent buyers from buying more than the daily limit of 3.6 grams, or the monthly limit of 9 grams.

The software has blocked roughly 10,000 grams a month in potential pseudoephedrine sales in Kentucky since June 2008, said Jim Acquisto, director of government affairs for Appriss* Inc., the Kentucky-based software company that will implement the database and provide training for pharmacists and police officers.

Acquisto said Missouri’s database will be linked to Appriss-created databases in other states, including Kentucky, Illinois and Louisiana, and national pharmacies including CVS and Rite Aid, a network of roughly 18,000 pharmacies. He said Iowa and Kansas are also considering adopting the system.

This network is one of the reasons Missouri, which is bordered by eight other states, chose Appriss from among six companies in a competitive-bid process, said Nixon spokesman Scott Holste.

“Appriss has a strong record of operating similar systems in other states,” he said. “Missouri needs all the tools it can get in the fight against meth.”

A law enforcement officer in Kentucky, however, said the system has actually made it more difficult to arrest suspected meth producers. Kentucky was among the first states to install the database.

Because of the daily and monthly limits, the database makes it possible for meth producers to recruit pseudoephedrine buyers, known as “smurfs,” said Trooper John Hawkins.

Hawkins said the database allows producers to circumvent the law by limiting and tracking those purchases.

“The software does exactly what it says it’s going to do,” he said.

The system might be more effective if the legal limits were raised and police were notified when large purchases are made, he said.

Since implementing the software, Kentucky has seen an increase in the number of meth labs, but Hawkins said the software is still helpful in untangling networks of suppliers and producers.

“It gives us somewhere to go look,” he said. “Before we didn’t have anywhere to go.”

Missouri pharmacies currently track pseudoephedrine purchases by hand, requiring buyers to provide identification and sign a register.

In the new system, pharmacy employees will enter information about buyers directly into a Web-based program to check whether they have exceeded the legal limits, Acquisto said.

Appriss will provide regular updates to the software free of charge. Pharmaceutical companies will pay for the database and the ongoing costs through the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators, a nonprofit group that works with companies and states to prevent drugs from being misused.

Acquisto said other states have assigned a state employee to monitor the database, but Holste said he wasn’t sure whether Missouri plans to do so.

The Missouri General Assembly required the creation of an electronic tracking system in legislation passed in 2008. The system is expected to be installed within three months.

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