This program is ripe for a serious cost-benefit analysis that also takes into account the extra suffering to those with colds and flu who end up with weaker medicine as well as all the extra time wasted by people in line at drugstores.
ST. LOUIS – At the height of the methamphetamine epidemic, several states turned to a new weapon to disrupt the drug trade: electronic systems that could track sales of the cold medicine used to make meth.
Tracking sales by computer allowed pharmacies to check instantly whether a buyer had already purchased the legal limit of pseudoephedrine — a step that was supposed to make it harder to obtain raw ingredients for meth.
But an Associated Press analysis of federal data reveals that the practice has not only failed to curb the meth trade, which is growing again after a brief decline. It also created a vast and highly lucrative market for profiteers to buy over-the-counter pills and sell them to meth producers at a huge markup.
In just a few years, the lure of such easy money has drawn thousands of new people into the methamphetamine underworld.
"It's almost like a sub-criminal culture," said Gary Boggs, an agent at the Drug Enforcement Administration. "You'll see them with a GPS unit set up in a van with a list of every single pharmacy or retail outlet. They'll spend the entire week going store to store and buy to the limit."
In some cases, the pill buyers are not interested in meth. They may be homeless people recruited off the street or even college kids seeking weekend beer money, authorities say.
But because of booming demand created in large part by the tracking systems, they can buy a box of pills for $7 to $8 and sell it for $40 or $50.
The end of the article indicates that some states want to make cold medicine available only by prescription, a move no doubt promoted by their local medical gatekeeper cartel - I mean medical association.