Local reaction mixed to new state law limiting access to some cold medications

At the height of cold and flu season, some medicines designed to fight those ailments have disappeared from drug store aisles because of a Washington state law passed at the 2005 legislative session.

Nonprescription medications such as Sudafed, Coricidin and Claritin — anything containing ephedrine or pseudoephredrine — now must be kept behind the counter of stores and supermarkets.

Since the medicines are raw ingredients for making methamphetamine — an illegal stimulant — store employees must keep tabs on who’s buying how much.

Many Clallam County stores, such as Safeway and Wal-Mart, have been keeping their cold medicines out of reach for several months now.

As of Jan. 1, the state law mandates that policy for all stores and requires employees to keep a log of customers’ names, dates of birth and photo identification numbers.

Reaction mixed

Reaction among local shoppers, pharmacists and police is mixed.

At Jim’s Pharmacy in Port Angeles, owner Joe Cammack said he is disgusted.

He said the new law won’t corral meth cooks — what it will do is inconvenience his regular customers.

“This is just another pain in the butt for a small vendor like us,” Cammack said.

Methamphetamine users go to chain stores to buy large quantities of cold medicine, he added.

“They go where they’re faceless and nameless. They don’t come here … we know our customers.”

Requiring pharmacists to log names and driver’s license numbers takes them away from what they should be doing, Cammack said.

Pharmacists should have time to counsel customers on their medications, rather than having to explain the latest government-mandated policy.

‘Another hurdle’ to meth

Recently, Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Deborah Kelly said meth was the reason for a record-breaking year of criminal cases in Clallam County Superior Court in 2005.

The number of felony and gross misdemeanor cases involving methamphetamine has more than doubled during the past 10 years as well, she said.

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