November 01, 2012

Wyden, Roe Seek Justice Department Investigation into Pseudoephedrine Tracking Program

Lawmakers Want to Know if Program Designed to Track OTC Drugs Commonly Used to Make Methamphetamine Violates Federal Law

Washington, D.C. – In a letter to the U.S. Justice Department today, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and U.S. Representative Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) raised concerns that the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx), a nation-wide program tracking sales of pseudoephedrine, may violate the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act (CMEA). NPLEx was created as a tool for pharmacies and law enforcement to investigate and crack down on the illegal production of methamphetamine.  The lawmakers are seeking an investigation into the program and the company operating it.

Wyden and Roe assert that anecdotal evidence provided to their offices by law enforcement officials raises serious questions about whether NPLEx and the private company operating the program, Appriss, Inc., are providing law enforcement access to the data collected by the program that they are statutorily required to provide. There is also concern that this data is instead given to private companies within the pseudoephedrine business for marketing purposes, a direct violation of the CMEA.

In the letter, the lawmakers write: “In conversations and exchanges with state and local law enforcement officials who use NPLEx and coordinate with the Appriss personnel who operate NPLEx, our staffs have been made aware that Appriss may be inappropriately limiting, or even blocking, appropriate law enforcement access to NPLEx-collected data.”

The lawmakers go on to describe anecdotal reports from law enforcement indicating that Appriss will often deny law enforcement officials access to real-time sales data that they are required by law to receive. There are also reports that the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI) – the organization tasked with overseeing the project and manages contracts between Appriss and state governments – routinely uses language in its memoranda of understanding within those contracts permitting delayed withholding of this information.

There have been reports that the personal information of pseudoephedrine purchasers that is collected as part of NPLEx’s tracking program is being disseminated to companies with a financial stake in sales of the drug and being used for marketing and sales purposes.

“Beyond mere compliance with the law, the involvement of any private companies or associations in the NPLEx funding equation also raises fundamental questions about the potential conflict of interest in having financially interested parties supply a tracking system that, if used for its stated purpose, could lead to fewer sales of pseudoephedrine-containing products,” the lawmakers wrote.

Wyden and Roe have asked the Justice Department to investigate whether NPLEx is considered to be in compliance with the CMEA and whether Appriss has violated the CMEA by limiting sales-data to law enforcement and providing NPLEx data to non-law enforcement entities. They are also seeking information about all sources of funding for the NPLEx program.

Click here to read the whole letter.