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Two Cape Girardeau pharmacies tops in pseudoephedrine sales in November
Of the 1,000 Missouri pharmacies connected to an electronic database that catalogs pseudoephedrine purchases, two of Cape Girardeau's top chain pharmacies recorded the most sales for November.
At Walgreens, a store that led Missouri for pseudoephedrine sales in October, 2,215 sales were recorded -- about 170 boxes fewer than in October. Entering sales through Nov. 28, Walmart in Cape Girardeau logged sales of 2,470 boxes of medications containing pseudoephedrine.
Franklin County investigator Jason Grellner, also vice president of the Missouri Narcotics Officers Association, is confident that more than 90 percent of the sales are for illegal purposes.
"I'm confident in that number because of the stats we've found in Washington, Missouri, which showed a 94 percent decrease in sales," Grellner said. The decrease was documented 90 days after city officials passed a law mandating pseudoephedrine be available only with a prescription.
The numbers amount to 167 boxes sold per day from the two locations.
"We see the boxes at the meth labs day in and day out, and blocked sales do nothing to lower the number of meth labs in Missouri," Grellner said, referring to the database. "This is not normal activity."
Also topping the state for November sales was a Walmart pharmacy in Desloge, Mo.
"After that is Fenton, Missouri, and Jasper County, a county that is the top three or four in Missouri for meth labs," Grellner said.
Statewide, pharmacies connected to the database sold more than 125,000 boxes of pseudoephedrine.
Mandy Hagan, director of state government relations for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, said Wednesday the number of sales seem consistent with the normal upticks in purchases when it's cold and flu season. They're also in line, she said, with what pharmaceutical companies have been saying all along -- that the state will sell upward of $1 million worth of boxes of medication containing pseudoephedrine each year.
The CHPA, with several other pharmaceutical organizations, expressed their opposition this week to Gov. Jay Nixon's announcement to support legislation that would make Missouri the third state in the nation to make pseudoephedrine-based medicines available only with a prescription.
"Missouri has just started to get on track with the statewide database," Hagan said. "They should give it an opportunity to work."
Cape Girardeau County Sheriff John Jordan, in office for more than 16 years, said he saw pseudoephedrine as a prescription-only drug work in the 1970s and has been pushing for it to be again for 10 years. He said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration warned the Food and Drug Administration not to take it off the list of prescription medications in 1976 and the action has now "created a monster."
"I've been saying all along that pseudoephedrine has to be regulated," Jordan said. "All along, the drug companies, the pharmaceutical companies have made billions in profits and will fight us tooth and nail and try to say we're taking all cold medications away from everyday citizens, which is baloney."
While Grellner said there are too many people in the database to try to track sales and verify trends, Scott County Sheriff's Department investigator Branden Caid says it's been helpful in tracking activity of some of the recurring meth manufacturers in the area.
Caid said a family member of a suspected meth cook informed him where and when their relative would be buying the cold medication. So, Caid said, he was able to search the database for the alleged manufacturer's name and tracked the person's purchasing activity.
"Normally, I wouldn't have seen this person going to Walmart or going to Walgreens. It's definitely an outstanding resource for us," he said.
Although Grellner doesn't disagree the database is a good tool, tracking a purchase means the sale has already occurred, which means the meth most likely has already been made and used.
"With the prescription ordinance in place, you stop it before the crime ever happens," he said. "You also eliminate the costs associated with cleaning up the meth lab."
3439 William St., Cape Girardeau, MO
1 S. Kingshighway, Cape Girardeau, MO