Cold medicine purchases limited starting July 1

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Beginning July 1, Alabama pharmacies will be required to follow strict guidelines when selling products containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine such as decongestants and cold medicines.

House Bill 152, championed by Alabama Attorney General Troy King and passed in the Alabama State Legislature last May, is aimed at combating the ever-growing problem of illegal production of methamphetamine in the state.

The ingredients in ephedrine products can be used to create illegal methamphetamines.

The law requires Alabama pharmacies to either keep these products behind the counter or keep the area of the store where they are on display under video surveillance.

In addition, customers purchasing the medications will be required to present identification and sign a log before they can buy the products.

Medications must contain 30 milligrams of ephedrine to fall under the new regulations.

King said he believes the new law will help stop the state’s meth problem.

&uot;This law will make it more difficult for criminals to get what they need to manufacture methamphetamine,&uot; King said. &uot;The families of Alabama will be safer from the plague of methamphetamine that has been spreading across our state, bringing destruction to communities both large and small.&uot;

As pharmacies in Shelby County work to meet the new guidelines, some owners are unsure whether the law will be effective.

Earnest Kochem, owner of Ernie’s Pharmacy in Helena, said he believes the regulations will ultimately be ineffective.

&uot;There’s definitely a loophole in the law,&uot; he said. &uot;What’s to stop people from going to every drugstore in the county? The big drawback is that people can still store-shop and get what they need.&uot;

Kochem said that he will have to decide whether to even sell products containing ephedrine.

&uot;It will be difficult to keep all of the products behind the counter,&uot; he said. &uot;And it’s not worth it to put in a $2,000 camera system to watch over a few bottles of cold medicine.&uot;

Wood Family Pharmacy owner Wendy Wood disagrees with Kochem.

&uot;I think this is exactly what needed to be done a long time ago,&uot; she said.

Wood’s Pharmacy in Pelham already has a camera system in place and will use it to monitor the drugs.

&uot;However,&uot; she said, &uot;I’m still unsure of how the law is going to be enforced. I don’t know whether they are planning on inspecting the pharmacies or just keep track of the logs.&uot;

Attorney General King recently stated that Bill 152 is not the end of the state’s battle with illegal meth production and distribution.

&uot;In future sessions of the Legislature, I will advocate the passage of a law to create tough penalties and protect children who live under the threat of methamphetamine environments,&uot; he said. &uot;I promise the families of Alabama that I will lead law enforcement in using the tools that were given to us to better wage the fight against the proliferation of meth-related activities.&uot;