Shared Burden

When drug store chains begin to take steps to tackle the methamphetamine problem in Appalachia – but that will also undoubtedly affect their bottom lines – customers should stand up and take notice. Last year, Rite Aid stores in West Virginia stopped stocking single-ingredient pseudoephedrine products. Fruth Pharmacy was the first drug-store chain in the state to stop selling the medication. Now CVS Pharmacy has announced it will stop selling the product in its 50 stores across the state. And Walgreens has given notice it plans to do the same.

If 2013 numbers are any indication, the change could put a dent in the amount of one key ingredient in the market for manufacturing methamphetamine. CVS alone sold more than 51,000 boxes of medicine containing pseudoephedrine last year.

But there is the rub. That number will fall, but will not disappear, for CVS and any of the other pharmacies, because all continue to sell combination medicines, which contain pseudoephedrine, and can be used to make meth. Many stores limit the sales of all medicines containing pseudoephedrine, and employ the NPLEx tracking system to stop those who might be trying to shop multiple stores in order to buy enough of the ingredient.

Retail establishments are doing a great deal to discourage the production of meth. It cannot be left up to them to tackle the problem. Drug stores cannot afford to alienate customers who legally and legitimately purchase certain medications for treatment of allergies and colds – nor should they have to.

Del. Don Perdue, D-Wayne, said “Certainly, I have to applaud CVS for doing something, but there is more left to be done.” He goes on to suggest the best way to stop this plague is for drug stores to require prescriptions for any medication containing pseudoephedrine. Ask any doctor-shopping pill addict how hard it is to get a prescription for a medication they want.

But Perdue is right. There is more to be done – by legislators, law enforcement officers, schools, churches, counselors, doctors, parents and communities. Retailers and law-abiding customers should not have to keep taking the fall.