Anti-meth law has stores reorganizing

By David Gomez

Retailers and lawmakers are tightening the grip on pseudoephedrine products after an anti-meth law was introduced earlier this year.

The Methamphetamine Manufacturing Chemical Retail Sale Control Act, which went into effect in Illinois at the start of this year, placed restrictions on the sale of products containing pseudoephedrine, a nasal decongestant ingredient commonly found in cold medicines. It is also a main ingredient in the production of methamphetamine.

The restrictions include limiting the number of packages sold to two per transaction and restricting the display of pseudoephedrine products.

The law followed a growing number of methamphetamine-related arrests in Illinois. State police uncovered 677 meth labs in 2002 and more than 970 in 2003.

Stronger anti-meth proposals may soon follow nationwide.

The Combat Meth Act of 2005, introduced in the Senate on Jan. 24, includes several regulations for pharmacies selling pseudoephedrine, including requiring customers to present photo identification and sign written logs or receipts showing their name, date and amount of pseudoephedrine purchased.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores, a group representing retail chain pharmacies and suppliers, announced its support for stricter pseudoephedrine measures Monday.

Craig Fuller, the group’s president and CEO, outlined a series of principles to be advocated as national standards in selling pseudoephedrine products.

The proposals included limiting purchases to nine grams within a 30-day period, maintaining logs of pseudoephedrine purchases for law enforcement officials and making sales of single-entity products from behind the pharmacy counter mandatory and dispensable only by licensed pharmacists and pharmacy personnel.

Fuller said the NACDS would continue working with Congress, the Bush administration and law enforcement officials in ensuring regulations are met successfully.

“These principles strike a balance between keeping valuable products available to our customers and combating dangerous, illegal practices,” Fuller said.

Some retailers have already placed restrictions on pseudoephedrine sales.

Illinois-based Walgreens placed limits on the number of packages of pseudoephedrine products as far back as the summer of 2002, spokeswoman Tiffani Bruce said.

All “single-entity” products which have pseudoephedrine as the sole active ingredient are placed behind counters, Bruce said.

The company announced last week the policy would go into effect in all of its 4,761 stores.

The decision was made to address public safety concerns, Bruce said.

Bruce said she had not heard accounts of customer complaints.

“People still go to our pharmacy counters and purchase medication [for] its effects,” Bruce said. “I think in many states people are aware there is a problem of meth abuse.”