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Electronically tracking purchases of pseudoephedrine, a cold medicine used in making methamphetamine, will not stop production or use of meth, according to a drug policy expert.

Keith Humphreys, a former drug policy adviser in the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, said requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine would be more effective. He spoke at a behavioral health conference in Charleston, West Virginia. The state recently adopted an electronic drug-tracking system, The Charleston Gazette reports.

West Virginia pharmacies are required to report pseudoephedrine sales to a national database called NPLEx. The law limits pseudoephedrine purchases to three boxes per month, and 20 per year. When a customer hits a monthly or annual limit, the database blocks further sales.

Law enforcement agencies in West Virginia have seized 270 meth labs so far this year. Last year, 288 meth labs were seized in the state.

Humphrey described a study comparing meth lab busts in Oregon, which requires pseudoephedrine prescriptions, and Kentucky, which does not. Kentucky pharmacies began reporting to NPLEx in 2008. Meth lab seizures rose from 429 that year, to 1,060 in 2012. In Oregon, meth lab busts declined by 96 percent after the prescription law passed.


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