- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 1, 2005


An association representing more than 36,000 pharmacies is issuing guidelines for suggested federal legislation to restrict sales of cold medications containing a substance often used to make methamphetamine, or “speed.”

Pseudoephedrine — a main ingredient in over-the-counter drugs such as Sudafed, Nyquil and Sinutab — can be extracted by boiling down the cold medicines. Toxic chemicals then are used to turn the substance into highly concentrated meth.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores, moving to avoid a hodgepodge of state laws, is calling for an overarching federal law that would require that such products be kept behind the pharmacy counter and sold only by a licensed pharmacist or pharmacy personnel.

Purchases should be limited to a little more than 9 grams — or 366 30-milligram pills — in 30 days, the Alexandria association says.

The guidelines also suggest that drugstores be required to keep written or electronic logs of all pseudoephedrine purchases to assist law-enforcement efforts.

“These principles strike a balance between keeping valuable products available to our customers and combating dangerous, illegal practices,” Craig L. Fuller, the group’s president and chief executive officer, said yesterday.

In January, a dozen Republican and Democratic senators announced legislation to put drugs containing pseudoephedrine behind the counter. The drugstore association opposed that bill, arguing that it would create unacceptable barriers for regular customers.

But now, “it’s time for a federal solution,” said Mary Ann Wagner, vice president for pharmacy regulatory affairs at the association.

Ms. Wagner said companies that run pharmacies in multiple states have to deal with a variety of laws regarding pseudoephedrine sales. Six states allow only pharmacies to sell drugs with pseudoephedrine; seven others require retailers to lock up the products or sell them from staffed counters. Legislatures in 22 other states are considering similar restrictions.

“There’s got to be a standardized way to do this,” Ms. Wagner said.

The Drug Enforcement Administration reported that more than 7,000 meth labs were dismantled nationwide in 2003.

The White House Office of National Drug Policy calls meth a highly addictive stimulant. Chronic abuse can lead to psychotic behavior, including intense paranoia, hallucinations and out-of-control rages.

Last week, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Kmart Holding Corp., CVS Corp., Rite Aid Corp. and Walgreen Co. announced that they will move medications with pseudoephedrine behind pharmacy counters. Target Corp. and Albertson’s Inc. already had made such a move.

All seven companies are members of the drugstore association, along with nearly 200 other chains.

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