Pseudoephedrine Tracking System Annual Report

February 29, 2016

Iowa’s Pseudoephedrine Tracking System utilizes the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx) to deter dangerous production of the illegal drug methamphetamine. It is a system funded by pseudoephedrine (PSE) manufacturers and is distributed to participating states by the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI) at no cost to the State of Iowa.  The software company that designed the software is Appriss Inc., a Louisville, Kentucky company. Pharmacies may enter PSE sale transactions into the system in two ways: via logging in to the web-portal or by integrating their point-of-sale system with NPLEx. 

NPLEx has proven to be an effective prevention and enforcement tool for the State of Iowa, connecting all pharmacies in the state that sell PSE from behind the pharmacy counter. The system is real-time for retailers and law enforcement. It is web-based, which means no additional software or hardware is required to participate. NPLEx is offered free-of-charge to all states, authorized agencies, retailers, and is seamless across state lines and different chains.


Since implementation was completed in 2010, Iowa has maintained 100% compliance by pharmacies. When a pharmacist enters a purchaser’s ID and product information, NPLEx allows the sale or tells the pharmacist the purchase would put the person over their daily or monthly limit under Iowa and Federal laws. Pharmacies have the ability to keep all their own records electronically, print their own store reports, and capture signatures electronically (which eliminates the need for any type of paper logs). The system also provides pharmacies 24-7 tech support and software upgrades.

Law Enforcement

NPLEx gives authorized law enforcement officers on-demand and real-time access to pharmacy logs from across the country via a secure website accessible from any computer with internet connectivity. As permitted by law, it also provides law enforcement with automated tools that give them the ability to monitor suspicious buying patterns or specific individuals who attempt to exceed legal limits imposed by federal or state law.  The system notifies law enforcement when a particular person makes, or attempts to make, an illegal pseudoephedrine purchase. Officers may also run specific reports on individuals or pharmacies. A store report consists of transaction summaries, transaction details, and compliance details. An activity report consists of a specific person’s ID information, pharmacy information, product, and activity type (purchase, attempt, block, return, or inquiry). 

Impact on the Public

Some have expressed concern that current restrictions on PSE sales limit access to health care products by law-abiding citizens. In reality, NPLEx blocked only 2.7% of total PSE purchase attempts since its implementation. Legitimate users of PSE products are allowed to buy a sufficient amount of pseudoephedrine for each 30-day period, if taken as directed on the package. Allergy sufferers may also obtain a prescription for any amount of pseudoephedrine their doctor authorizes, if it is in excess of what the law allows without a prescription. In addition, since original restrictions were put in place in 2004, drug manufacturers have produced alternative cold and allergy medicines that can be purchased over-the-counter, but cannot be used to manufacture meth.

ODCP has received very few complaints about NPLEx. A majority of calls taken involve a problem with a pharmacy’s internal system or concerns about stolen IDs, which were never substantiated. In every complaint, the situation was resolved with the pharmacy or directly with the member of the public. In some cases, consumers just tried to purchase too early or were unknowingly purchasing too much in the past. In reality, NPLEx is stopping them from buying over their limit and unknowingly breaking the law. Ultimately, NPLEx is making Iowa a safer place to live, work, and raise a family. The data below include five years of activity (September 1, 2010 to August 31, 2015).

Successful purchases         4,255,089
Blocked purchases                 118,121
% of attempts blocked                2.8%
Boxes Blocked                131,708 boxes
Grams Blocked        324,461.031 grams

324,461.031 grams of PSE    
x 92% maximum theoretical yield    
Equals 298,504.149 grams of meth possibly prevented
298,504.149 grams of meth    
÷ 453.59237 grams per pound    
Equals 658.089 pounds of meth possibly prevented
298,504.149 grams of meth    
x $130 per gram    
Equals $38,805,539.37 worth of meth possibly prevented