Rite Aid stops sales of some cold medicine

CHARLESTON – Some cold medications containing pseudoephedrine are no longer being sold at Rite Aid stores in West Virginia.

Rite Aid’s West Virginia stores recently stopped selling cold medications that have pseudoephedrine as their only active ingredient.

Pseudoephedrine also is illegally used to manufacture methamphetamine. Law enforcement agencies in the state have seized 370 meth labs this year.

“As a member of the community and the leading drugstore chain in the state, Rite Aid remains committed to taking appropriate action to help address the methamphetamine problem in West Virginia while ensuring that we continue to serve patients with legitimate medical needs,” Rite Aid spokeswoman Ashley Flower said.

Flower said that the company will continue to sell cold medicines in West Virginia that combine pseudoephedrine and other ingredients.

“It is our understanding that it is harder to make methamphetamine from a combination product than a single-ingredient product,” she said. “The continued availability of combination products will allow us to continue serving customers with legitimate medical needs.”

Rite Aid has more than 100 stores in West Virginia.

According to published reports, in October Rite Aid, Wal-Mart and CVS stores were the top sellers of boxes of cold medications containing pseudoephedrine in the state.

“We continue to explore ways to address this serious issue and this is one targeted approach that we believe is worth pursuing in West Virginia at this time,” Flower said. “We will continue to monitor the situation and consider future actions if necessary.”

The policy change only applies to West Virginia stores. Jason Grellner, vice president of the National Narcotics Officers Association, said that he hopes Rite Aid expands the new policy nationwide.

“This is a huge stride forward for a chain store to get rid of sole-ingredient products,” said Grellner, a Missouri-based narcotics detective and meth lab expert. “It will mean a lot less criminals will be going into Rite Aids.”

Dr. Dan Foster, who heads a task force investigating Kanawha County’s meth lab problem, questioned the impact of Rite Aid’s move.

“This will only have value in significantly reducing meth labs if all the stores do it, and that’s exceedingly unlikely,” Foster said. “They’re trying to say they’re taking care of the (meth) problem, but it’s a business plan. They’ll do anything to make people believe they’re doing something to keep from going prescription-only.”

House health committee Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, and Sen. Greg Tucker, D-Nicholas, plan to introduce legislation in January that would require people to secure a prescription before they could buy pseudoephedrine.