Oklahoma’s tracking system has done a good job stopping more than 76,000 pseudoephedrine sales per year since it was established in 2006, said Mark Woodward, Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics spokesman.
But the tracking system hasn’t, and won’t, stop meth manufacturers from cooking, he said.
“Tracking reduced the number of meth labs for four or five years in Oklahoma,” Woodward said. “Then sometime around the fall of 2008 the ‘shake-and-bake’ method surfaced and labs began to soar again.”
The tracking software the new bill will require is sponsored by the drug industry, Woodward said. The only difference between it and the existing tracking system is that it tracks other states as well, not just Oklahoma.
And while Woodward said the state does want the software, it won’t work without making pseudoephedrine tablets a prescription medication.
The Oklahoma Legislature has killed bills twice to make pseudoephedrine a prescription drug, but Woodward believes there are legislators passionate enough about the issue to keep introducing prescription bills until one passes.
“We’ve heard the opposition say it will make it too difficult or even impossible for people with low-incomes or no insurance to get pseudoephedrine for allergies,” Woodward said. “But Oregon passed a similar law in 2005, and seven years later they still have reduced their number of labs to almost none.”
Woodward said the OBN wants to see only pseudoephedrine tablets made prescription, not soft gels or liquid.
“Right now, meth manufacturers cannot make meth from soft gels or liquid,” he said. “So as far as we’re concerned those can remain over-the-counter medications. We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water.”
Another argument against prescription tablets Woodward has heard is meth manufacturers will simply figure out a way to make meth with something else, maybe even soft gels and liquid someday.
“That’s something that could happen, though it hasn’t happened in seven years in Oregon,” Woodward said. “And we’ll address new problems when they arise. But if we even put a stop to meth labs for five years — that is millions and millions of dollars saved, and numerous lives saved as well.”