JEFFERSON CITY - While Gov. Jay Nixon said Monday that a new statewide database will help prevent methamphetamine production, a trooper from the first state to employ the database said it has actually made it more difficult to arrest suspected meth producers.
The database will keep tabs on buyers of pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in methamphetamine production, and prevent buyers from buying more than the daily limit of 3.6 grams, or the monthly limit of nine 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 Appris 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 also be linked to Appris-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 Appris from among six companies in a competitive-bid process, said Nixon spokesman Scott Holste.
"Appris 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."
Because it prevents buyers from buying more than the maximum amount in a given day or month, Kentucky Trooper John Hawkins said it has actually made it easier for meth producers to recruit pseudoephedrine purchasers -- known as smurfs -- because the database prevents them from actually breaking the law.
"The software does exactly what it says it's going to do," he said.
The system might be more effective if it allowed purchases above the legal limit and notified the police of any such purchases, he said.
Since implementation of the software, Kentucky has actually 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 purchases 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.
Appris will be 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 non-profit 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.