Full-Out War Against Meth

Published in CSP Daily News

Feinstein seeking support for Combat Meth Act of 2005

WASHINGTON -- In an effort to combat illegal methamphetamine production, nine major drug retailersAlbertsons, CVS, Longs Drugs, Kmart, Rite Aid, Shopko, Target, Walgreens and Wal-marthave all recently agreed to move all single-ingredient pseudoephedrine products behind the pharmacy counter.

And the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), representing more than 36,000 pharmacies, announced support for federal legislation consistent with that proposed by Senators Jim Talent (R-Mo.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to require all drugstores to [image-nocss] reduce access to such products.

NACDS announced its support for measures reducing access to pseudoephedrine products, including requiring the sale of pseudoephedrine products behind the pharmacy counter by a licensed pharmacist or pharmacy personnela key provision of the Talent-Feinstein bill.

By making it more difficult to purchase large quantities of cold medicine blister packs, a major source of the precursor chemicals needed to produce meth, it will be far tougher for meth cooks to make this devastating drug, Feinstein said. I thank [NACDS] for its commitment to fighting meth. But we still need a national standard and hopefully the Senate will soon take up legislation I have sponsored with Senator Talent to require that products containing pseudoephedrine be sold behind the pharmacy counter."

Talent added, This is the first national association representing the retail sector to support the principles of the Combat Meth Act [of 2005]. Senator Feinstein and I have been working with the chain drug stores and other retail groups for months and this announcement shows they are willing to work with us to help curb meth production in our communities. It is critical that all retailers be required to limit access to cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine. If we can keep these medicines behind the counter, we can keep meth out of our schools and neighborhoods.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to take action on the Talent-Feinstein bill in the coming weeks. In addition to requiring that pseudoephedrine products be moved behind the pharmacy counter, and limiting sales to 9 grams, or about 300 pills, within a 30-day period, the bill would provide critical resources to local law enforcement to fight meth.

Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined law enforcement authorities in Fresno, Calif., on Monday to generate support for the legislation, added an Associated Press report. If the measure is approved, consumers would have to talk to a pharmacy worker and show a photo ID before they can get help for their chills, coughing and runny noses.

The bill faces strong opposition from representatives of the drug industry who argue it would put too many barriers between a sick person and a legitimate form of relief. It would also take pharmacists away from their jobs and force them to police pseudoephedrine sales, critics argued.

"This is a full-out war against methamphetamine," Feinstein said. Who needs to buy more than 300 pills a month?" she asked, addressing industry concerns that legitimate consumers might be harmed.

Fresno law enforcement officials showed Monday they stand strongly behind the measure, which they said addresses one of their key concerns. "The methamphetamine epidemic that we face today is the No. 1 challenge to law enforcement," Fresno police chief Jerry Dyer said. It is behind property crime increases; it's fueling gang violence and is behind the growing number of assaults against officers, he said.

Use of meth, a cheap and fiercely addictive drug, has soared during the past few years in rural communities around the country, Feinstein said. It can be cooked from easily available chemicals in kitchens and motel rooms. This year alone, 850 labs have been seized in California, Feinstein said. According to a 2001 estimate by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), 80% of the country's meth comes from Mexican drug cartels that operate in the Central Valley's remote rural areas, where many of the necessary chemicals are readily available and the noxious fumes are hard to detect.