Since November, when the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs added a "date of birth” requirement to better track sales of pseudoephedrine at pharmacies, drug enforcement agents have seen the number of denials grow from about 2,000 per month to 7,000 per month, OBN spokesman Mark Woodward said. "Most of these were blocked because they had an Oklahoma driver’s license that was not in our system or had a name that did not match the date of birth, ” he said. As of last week, OBN had managed to block 35,000 over-the-counter sales that might have been used to produce methamphetamine, the state official said. OBN Director Darrell Weaver admits the number of denials sounds high, and he said he had some initial concerns about balancing drug law enforcement against government intrusion. So far, however, OBN has not received "an overabundance” of calls or complaints about the denials, which drug watchdogs to believe that those blocks actually stopped illegal sales, Weaver said.
Birthday checkBefore Nov. 1, anyone who wanted to buy pseudoephedrine at a pharmacy had to show an ID with birthdate, but the date-of-birth information wasn’t really used in the screening process. As state agents began to see an uptick in new "shake-and-bake” one-pot meth labs, which is a method of production that uses smaller amounts of the cold remedy pills, OBN decided they needed to do more to keep the drug away from those who might abuse it. Before Nov. 1, a pseudoephedrine purchase required either a driver’s license, a state-issued ID, a military ID or a passport. And the numbers on each were recorded with each sale with the intention to limiting single-sale purchases to less than 3.2 grams and monthly purchases to less than 9 grams. On Nov. 1, OBN began the initiative to only sell pseudoephedrine to state residents who had valid Oklahoma driver’s licenses or identification. Military IDs, passports and out of state driver’s licenses are no longer acceptable, Woodward said. And the name and the birthday on the state-issued ID better match up, he said, or the purchase will be flagged for denial. The new requirements were put into place to keep people who used multiple identification cards as a way to get around the existing pseudoephedrine purchase limits, he said. But when Weaver saw the sizable increase in rejections, some questions came to mind. "Who are we denying out there?” the director said. "How many folks denied had criminal records of any type? And then how many of them had any prior drug charges?” What he found, after OBN staff members finished crunching the numbers, was about 62 percent of those denied had prior criminal records and 44 percent had previous drug charges. "What’s interesting about this,” Weaver said, "is that the good public knows the number they can call if they have been denied and they know we have a help desk ready to help those people.” The actual number of complaints that came from among those 35,000 people denied sales was not significant, Weaver said.
Pharmacy reactionDani Lynch, owner of Thrifty Pharmacy at May and Hefner, said she saw very few rejections before the date of birth initiative, and that didn’t change much after the new requirement went into effect. "It’s just another step,” she said, qualifying that as a small independent pharmacy she is able to keep a controlled environment. "They aren’t as likely to come in to a place where they know they’ll be turned down,” she said. Lynch said she is supportive of OBN’s efforts, including tracking dates of birth against purchases, but at this point in the game, there needs to be a stronger push at a national level. "I agree with the program wholeheartedly,” she said. "But unless the laws go nationwide, we’re just putting the problem in someone else’s yard.”