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High hopes for PSE-tracking strategy in meth war

BY Michael Johnsen

LOUISVILLE, Ky. —Advocates of placing a prescription requirement on the sale of pseudoephedrine products, both a common decongestant and the precursor ingredient in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine, may have had some of the wind taken out of their sails last month.

The National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators last month unveiled a new initiative in the war on meth: the National Precursor Log Exchange, a multistate electronic tracking program that enforces purchase limitations of the decongestant pseudoephedrine in real-time at the point of sale. The new NPLEx system was adopted by Kentucky, Illinois and Louisiana.

“Rarely are states able to easily work together to tackle a problem that crosses state lines,” stated Charlie Cichon, director of NADDI. “We believe dozens of states will adopt NPLEx over the next several years, making it more difficult for these common medicines to be used illegally.”

Many states had passed legislation approving the implementation of such a system soon after federal law required PSE to be sold only behind a pharmacy counter, though the challenge had always been identifying enough public resources to fund and maintain such a system. The NPLEx, however, is being offered free of charge to those states interested, courtesy of pseudoephedrine manufacturers, and as such serves as an alternative to placing prescription requirements on PSE sales.

“Our member companies share law enforcement’s goal of preventing illegal sales of PSE, and [thosecompanies] are offering to fund [NPLEx] to states that adopt mandatory electronic PSE sales tracking to tackle critical meth lab problems,” stated the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which represents OTC manufacturers. “We believe that electronic tracking is the only solution that allows for real-time, stop sale of these medicines illegally diverted to manufacture meth, while maintaining consumer access to safe and effective cold and allergy medicines.”

“If states are wanting to make this a prescription drug, we are coming in and saying, ‘Here is a tool [being offered to] law enforcement at no cost,’” Cichon said.

The implementation of a program like NPLEx also should allow law enforcement to tackle the largest source of meth: meth produced in Mexican “super-labs” and imported into the United States. “With the national restrictions on pseudoephedrine put into law in 2006, we’ve seen homegrown labs decrease, at least up until now, and the [emergence] of Mexican cartels running super-labs south of the border, and trafficking has been up to 80%—90% of the meth that’s now distributed inside the United States,” Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., testified during a hearing of the Homeland Security Subcommittee the day before NADDI’s announcement. California is one state considering the placement of a prescription-only requirement on pseudoephedrine.

The technology for NPLEx is based on a system that was developed and tested in Kentucky in 2005, and the program was expanded statewide in Kentucky in late 2007.

The system helps retailers stay in compliance with state and federal laws concerning PSE sales, and notifies law enforcement when an individual attempts to circumvent those restrictions through a practice known as “smurfing,” in which individuals jump from one pharmacy to the next, purchasing their daily legal limit of PSE. The technology is used today to deny more than 5,000 monthly purchases of cold and allergy medicines in Kentucky that otherwise would exceed the legal limits.

NADDI is a nonprofit organization that facilitates cooperation between law enforcement, healthcare professionals, state regulatory agencies and pharmaceutical manufacturers in the prevention and investigation of prescription drug diversion.

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Hy-Vee names new president

BY Alaric DeArment

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa A 28-year employee of Hy-Vee has become its new president, according to published reports.

The company appointed Randall Edeker as president of the supermarket chain Thursday at the company’s annual meeting, succeeding Ric Jurgens, who had served as president since 2001 and will maintain his position as chairman and CEO.

Edeker had previously served as EVP and COO.

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Tricare expands vaccination coverage to pharmacies, clinics

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK Convenience and value. That’s what community pharmacy and their retail clinic partners deliver to their patients. And that’s what the Department of Defense is counting on in covering immunizations at local pharmacies and identifying convenient care clinics as network providers — two separate pieces of news issued within the past month that really underscore the importance of pharmacies and retail clinics in the delivery of health care today.

Prior to these announcements, military personnel interested in getting their flu shots had to schedule an appointment with their doctor, as Tricare only covered the cost of shots delivered in a doctor’s office.

“As a convenient and accessible healthcare provider, pharmacy is uniquely positioned to offer services for patients, such as vaccinations,” stated Steve Anderson, president and CEO for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. Anderson noted that as of earlier this year, pharmacists have the ability to immunize patients in all 50 states. “[This] presents an important opportunity for pharmacists to counsel patients during their visit, and an additional healthcare provider from which to obtain these vaccinations.”

It’s also quite a bit of opportunity for pharmacy — Tricare provides healthcare coverage for 9.5 million eligible beneficiaries. Those beneficiaries pick up almost 2.3 million prescriptions every week, and 1.2 million of those at retail pharmacies, according to Tricare .

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