Keeping Sudafed behind the counter is depleting meth labs

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- Making methamphetamine was supposed to get harder last year when Washington state enacted the Combat Meth Act. Cold medicine that contains key ingredients is now sold behind the counter. And, the system's supposed to track those who buy it.

It's a daily question for Alysha Leyva.

She says to a customer, "Can I see your ID please?"

She does her part to keep track of the customers at her pharmacy who buy drugs like Claritin, Sudafed and Allegra.

Alysha explains, "Anything with the D. If it's marked with a D, it has pseudoephedrine in it basically."

In fact, Alysha takes them herself.

She continues, "I use Aprodine. I have to for my allergies. It's the only thing that works."

This N-Plex system records purchases of pseudoephedrine-filled drugs when they happen. Pharmacists scan your ID and can see when and where you bought them the last time. It only let you buy one box at a time.

Police say they've seen positive results here in the Tri Cities. Two years ago, they busted more than 50 meth labs in Benton County. There were more than 100 ten years ago.

Kennewick Police spokesman Mike Blatman tells KEPR, "There's a sharp reduction in the number of meth labs that have been taken down in the immediate area."

It took a little getting used to.

Blatman explains, "When it first started, we saw some shoplifting of those items."

Alysha chimes in, "I had a shoplifter once."

"But, even that dissipated," says Blatman.

Once in awhile, people still try to get around the law... especially by people coming from Oregon where the prescriptions are required to buy the same medicine.

Alysha nods, "We've had sketchy people come in from Oregon trying to buy Sudafed. We say, sorry, your state requires requires a prescription for it. So, we cant sell it them."

Police only expect the results to get better in time.

"It's good because we don't have these toxic situations where homes are not being lived in because of meth manufacturing," Blatman says,

Allergy sufferers like Alysha don't mind taking the extra step if it's working.

Alysha shrugs, "Bad people have to ruin it for the good people type of thing."

Pharmacies don't pay anything for the tracking system. However, we found out a lot of local pharmacies stopped selling products with pseudoephedrine altogether to avoid dealing with it.