Meth ingredient sales tops in chain stores

CHARLESTON – Chain store pharmacies are the top sellers in West Virginia of cold medications containing an ingredient that’s also illegally used to make methamphetamine.

A report from the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy lists six pharmacies at Wal-Mart stores among the top 10 sellers of pseudoephedrine in the state. Three Rite Aids and one CVS also are on the list. The report was released this week, according to published reports.

A Wal-Mart store at the Southridge shopping complex in South Charleston was the top seller, reporting 1,851 transactions for cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine in August. A Wal-Mart store in Summersville had the second-highest sales number in August, reporting 969 transactions.

Bridget Lambert, executive director of the West Virginia Retailers Association, said that it is not surprising that Wal-Mart stores are on the list.

“Those are stores that draw the largest customer base,” Lambert said. “The Southridge and Summersville Walmarts both draw customers from multiple counties. These figures are exactly what you’d expect.”

Large numbers of pseudoephedrine products also are sold at Rite Aid and CVS stores because people go to stores in their communities when they have colds and allergy symptoms, she said.

“The Southridge Wal-Mart total is just unbelievable,” said Dr. Dan Foster, who heads a Kanawha County substance-abuse task force that’s studying pseudoephedrine sales and their possible link to a sharp increase in meth labs. “It’s a real head-scratcher. You have to assume a lot of that (pseudoephedrine) is not being used to treat colds and congestion.”

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Danit Marquardt said that the retail chain is “committed to quality patient care and social responsibility. We work with government officials, law enforcement and others to serve patients who benefit from these products while protecting against their potential misuse.”

The pharmacy board’s report is based on data from an electronic tracking system called NPLEx.

Rite Aid spokeswoman Ashley Flower said that the company uses the tracking system to monitor and record sales of all products that contain pseudoephedrine.

“Rite Aid takes seriously its responsibilities with regard to the sale of products, including those products with pseudoephedrine,” Flower told the newspaper. “The company has designed and implemented systems to comply with federal and state law regarding sales of PSE and has a training program in place for associates to complete regarding the sale of these products.”