Madigan pushes to extend pill-tracking legislation during visit to Quincy

Attorney General Lisa Madigan says she is supporting legislation to extend a program allowing pharmacies to block illegal sales of a key methamphetamine-making ingredient, pseudoephedrine.

Speaking at the Quincy Walgreens Wednesday morning, Madigan said meth production is on the rise because it's easier to make. A pilot program started in Illinois pharmacies last year to track the sale of pseudoephedrine if the sale exceeds the legal purchase amount is scheduled to expire early next year.

If the legislation isn't extended during the fall veto session, "Illinois will become a pill-shopper's paradise," Madigan said.

She was joined at the press conference by local law enforcement officers, state lawmakers, prosecutors and pharmacy representatives.

During a neighborhood meeting last week, Quincy Police Chief Rob Copley said the West Central Illinois Task Force made 25 meth-related arrests in 2008, 26 in 2009 and 39 in 2010.

So far in 2011, 83 have been made.

Meth is easier to make than ever because the ingredients, including pseudoephedrine pills used for allergies and colds, can be put in a 2-liter soda bottle in a method known as "shake and bake."

The 2006 Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act restricts consumers from buying more than two packages of products containing pseudoephedrine at a time or more than 7,500 milligrams in a 30-day period.

Customers must show photo identification and sign a purchasing log maintained by the pharmacies.

"This tracking system has demonstrated its success here in Adams County as part of the pilot program," State Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, said. "I'm pleased that the state will have permanent access to this important tool."

Adams County Sheriff Brent Fischer said the electronic pill logs save man-hours and enable law enforcement to more effectively see who is buying pills.

"It's been a vital resource for us to track the people who are cooking the meth and tracking their pill-buying patterns," Fischer said. "It's a much more effective and efficient way for us to investigate and trace people who are buying pills for meth cooks."

Madigan said from June 2010 to present, pharmacies used the system to block the sale of more than 70,000 boxes of pseudoephedrine-based cold medicines statewide, including 1,489 boxes in Adams County.

Madigan and partnering agencies also have launched a campaign to educate the public and put on notice the growing numbers who act as pill buyers for meth users or producers. Madigan said posters will be placed in pharmacies across the state to send a message that these pill shoppers are contributing to a crime when they buy pills for a meth cook.