Cold medicine purchases tracked to cut down on the production of meth

KINGMAN - You're sore and groggy, wishing you had a full night's rest last night, and now all you're hoping for is something to help you sleep tonight.

Hopefully, the cold medicine will help you stay asleep, but can you rest easy knowing the information you gave the pharmacist to get the medicine is being kept safe?

The Kingman City Council passed Ordinance No. 1526 on Jan. 4, 2006. It requires operators of retail establishments to keep all products containing pseudoephedrine, which is an ingredient in some cold medicines, be kept behind a store counter or inaccessible to customers without the assistance of an employee. The ordinance also requires that the business record the name and date of birth of the customer, quantity of pseudoephedrine product purchased, transaction date and the initials of the seller for 90 days.

The city of Kingman isn't the only government concerned about pseudoephedrine purchases. In March, Congress passed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act limiting the sale of pseudoephederine products to 3.6 grams or roughly 120 tablets daily and a total of nine grams or around 300 tablets monthly. The law also requires retailers to maintain a logbook of individuals who purchased the products for 30 days.

According to Walgreens spokeswoman Tiffani Bruce, its stores keep an electronic log requiring a secure login with all the vital information of customers. She added that the company had installed the sign-in policy in the fall of 2005 and at the same time also limited purchases of products containing pseudoephedrine to two per person.

Wal-Mart also keeps an electronic log as part of their proprietary pharmacy patient record system, according to Kevin Gardner, the senior manager with corporate communications for Wal-Mart.

Both stores keep pseudoephedrine-based products behind the counters in their pharmacies.

The information obtained is considered confidential but is available to the Kingman Police Department, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Mohave County Sheriff's Office and other law enforcement agencies.

"We don't do it on a regular basis," KPD Sgt. Rusty Cooper said in response to how often they check pharmacies' lists in Kingman. "We do random checks."

Cooper added that it mainly checks the lists when it hears of suspicious activity or when investigating a specific person or incident.

Messages left with Kroger, which owns Smith's, and Safeway for their policies regarding recording individuals who purchased products containing pseudoephedrine were not replied to by Friday afternoon.

According to Uptown Drug employee Amanda Yee, law enforcement has only checked their list, which they keep in a binder behind the pharmacy counter, once after they flagged a person who was taking a significant amount of products containing pseudoephedrine. Yee said the store on Bank Street usually has five to six customers daily that sign for medicine with pseudoephedrine during this cold and flu season.

Public Information Specialist Trish Carter with the MCSO said their office only looks at lists on three occasions: when they are conducting an investigation and discover an individual purchasing products containing pseudoephedrine; when they receive a tip from the public; when a pharmacist contacts them with suspicions.

Locally and nationally, there has been a crackdown on methamphetamine use, focusing on the key ingredient in its production: pseudoephedrine. The Arizona Attorney General's Office has been outspoken in its fight against methamphetamine, and President George W. Bush proclaimed Nov. 30 as National Methamphetamine Awareness Day.

Currently, Arizona doesn't have legislation that is stricter than the federal act requiring medicines containing pseudoephedrine to be kept behind pharmacy counters and buyers to show identification and sign a log.

But, Goddard said in November, he would again seek legislative approval of a law requiring stricter regulations and punishment for violations.