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Meth-making cold medicine sales drop 30 percent

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Sales of cold pills that fuel illegal methamphetamine labs have declined 30 percent this year in West Virginia, according to new data.

Since January, West Virginia pharmacies have sold 145,526 boxes of cold medications containing pseudoephedrine, a key meth-making ingredient. That’s down from 205,113 boxes sold during the first five months of 2013, according to data from a drug-industry-funded pseudoephedrine tracking system called NPLEx.

Retailers attribute the drop — along with a 27 percent decrease in meth lab seizures this year — to the ongoing use of NPLEx by pharmacies and law enforcement.

Also, Rite Aid, West Virginia’s largest drugstore chain, has stopped selling cold medications, such as Sudafed 24 Hour, that have pseudoephedrine as their only active ingredient. Fruth Pharmacy stores have done the same. Meth makers prefer the single-ingredient products because they produce potent meth without byproducts.

“West Virginia’s retailers have stepped up,” said Bridget Lambert, executive director of the West Virginia Retailers Association. “We’re looking at every avenue to address this situation.”

The pseudoephedrine sales decline was steepest in Kanawha County, where purchases plunged 60 percent.

Kanawha County law enforcement officers have attributed the drop to an increase in the local availability of meth manufactured in Mexico. Also, some Kanawha pharmacies are now selling only tamper-resistant pseudoephedrine products, such as Nexafed and Zephrex-D, which can’t easily be converted to meth…

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