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Grocery chain Albertsons Inc. said Monday that it will restrict the sale of over-the-counter medications containing the decongestant pseudoephedrine, a compound used in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine. Retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which had been implementing a similar move, said it will curb access to the most commonly abused products by early June, according to published reports.
The moves comes one week after national retail chain Target Corp. announced a similar voluntary move, and involve similar restrictions.
"The clandestine manufacture of methamphetamine has tremendous social, environmental and law-enforcement impact in many of the communities we serve," said Larry Johnston, Albertsons chairman, CEO and president, in a prepared statement. "We want to do our part to make certain that the products we sell do not become part of the problems that methamphetamine labs cause."
Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons already had limits on the quantity of pseudoephedrine-containing products a customer may buy. Within the next few months, the company said Monday, "certain over-the-counter products containing pseudoephedrine" will only be available from the pharmacy counter at Albertsons stores that have pharmacies. Those stores which do not have pharmacies will only offer "alternative products" with a different formulation.
About 80 percent of Albertsons 2,500-plus stores have a pharmacy.
Arkansas-based Wal-Mart will move all medications containing the drug behind its pharmacy counters by September, and has contacted vendors about reformulated versions of their products, according to a Wal-Mart spokeswoman quoted by the Associated Press. The most commonly abused products containing pseudoephedrine, such as decongestant pills and some nasal sprays, will be stashed behind the counters by early June, AP reported.
Pseudoephedrine, sold as a decongestant in a variety of cold medicines, can also be used as a raw material in the manufacture of methamphetamine, a powerful and addictive stimulant that is a controlled substance. In addition to the problems caused by abuse of meth, its manufacture involves hazardous chemicals and methamphetamine labs can be an expensive source of pollution cleanup.