Fruth Pharmacy made a splash in West Virginia earlier this year when it put out a press release announcing its commitment to replace medications containing pseudoephedrine, a drug used in the manufacture of methamphetamines, with a new product known as Nexafed — a tamper resistant form of pseudoephedrine.
“By making only Nexafed available, patients still get the relief they need, but those seeking PSE for meth production will have to look elsewhere,” Fruth said in its press release.
Lynne Fruth, the president of the chair of the 27 store chain, told reporters at the time that “as a company we decided we really need to do what’s the best thing for our customers, for the community.”
“If that means you make a little less money because you’re not selling Sudafed to people who are using it illegally, I think we’re OK with that,” Fruth said.
People in West Virginia and Ohio, where the chain does business, cheered. Wow, a chain drugstore doing the right thing — getting rid of pseudoephedrine so that meth heads can’t shake and bake it into meth.
That was six months ago. Fast forward. And now it’s Halloween.
And Fruth is still selling pseudoephedrine. Turns out, the company only pulled the pseudoephedrine in its 30 mg form.
But it’s still selling pseudoephedrine in higher doses — up to 120 mg — and in combination with other drugs.
Fruth says those products will continue to be sold until tamper resistant forms become available — not apparently any time soon.
More troubling is the fact that Fruth and the chain drug stores are cozying up with the large pharmaceutical companies and actively campaigning against a proposed law that would actually cripple the shake and bake meth labs in the West Virginia.
That law — narrowly defeated in West Virginia in 2011 by Big Pharma — would require pseudoephedrine products be put on prescription.
Both Oregon and Mississippi have passed similar laws — and the shake and bake meth labs have, for the most part, been driven from those states.
But Lynne Fruth says she opposes the prescription legislation. And she then begins dishing out Big Pharma talking points as to why she opposes it.
“Requiring a prescription will add fees to the patient for a doctor visit, increased costs in the pharmacy as now a pharmacy will endure increased labor costs to ‘dispense’ vs. sale,” Fruth says.
“She’s talking straight out of the pharmaceutical industry’s playbook,” Foster says.
Fruth says she would support alternate legislation that would require pseudoephedrine makers to make the drug in tamper resistant form — like Nexafed.
But Foster says Fruth is “trying to confuse the issue.”
“They know the legislation she’s talking about won’t happen,” Foster said. “It will only delay things. They know prescription only legislation is going to happen. It happened already in Oregon and Mississippi. The more they can delay it, the more the pharmaceutical companies get the profits.”
“If one or two more states follow the lead of Oregon and Mississippi, the federal government will step in and make it a federal law — and that’s why the industry is so frightened by West Virginia passing this prescription only law,” Foster said.
Don Perdue (D-Wayne), chairman of the West Virginia House of Delegates Health and Human Resources Committee and author of the put pseudoephedrine on prescription legislation, says that Fruth’s press event from earlier this year “now appears to be more public relations than policy.”
“If the retail pharmacies were serious, they would remove all of those pseudoephedrine items in favor of those that can’t be tampered with,” Perdue said.
Fruth sits on the board of the National Association of Chain Drugs Stores along with executives from Wal-Mart, Rite Aid, Walgreens — among others.
Fruth says that other chain drug stores might follow her company’s lead.
“I have a good relationship with the CEO of Rite Aid,” Fruth said. “And I was contacted by Rite Aid last week. They are considering a similar transition to what we have done. They wanted to talk to me about any problems or benefits of our policy.”
Well, one benefit is that Fruth and Rite Aid will put the idea in the public mind — don’t worry, we are taking care of the Sudafed/Meth problem, no need for prescription legislation in West Virginia.
Trick or treat?