DRUGSTORE CHAIN UNDER FIRE IN SALES OF PSEUDOEPHEDRINE
More than 50 Walgreens stores in Oklahoma may have violated the state's pseudoephedrine law and the company could be fined up to about $100,000, a state official said Friday.
No other chain of stores in Oklahoma abused the law meant to curb methamphetamine production as much as Walgreens, said Mark Woodward, spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.
"It was kind of a slap in the face to other pharmacies in Oklahoma," he said. "There was just a pattern of noncompliance. We want them to come in and explain why."
There are 65 Walgreens in Oklahoma. Woodward said it's possible more than 50 were violating the law. Attorneys for Walgreens have been in negotiations with the state this week, he said.
Since February, bureau agents have been combing store logbooks to see what violations occurred. Stores cannot sell more than 9 grams of pseudoephedrine to a customer in a 30-day period, according to a state law enacted in April 2004.
Customers sign a logbook, which stores are supposed to use to ensure the law is not violated.
The drug is used to make meth.
A Walgreens in Enid had about 150 instances in which the law was broken, Woodward said.
"It doesn't appear that they were ever in compliance," he said. "It looks like since day one, they have been ignoring the logbooks. It wasn't just one or two names slipping through the cracks."
A manager at the Enid store deferred questions to the company's corporate office.
Carol Hively, spokeswoman for Walgreens corporate offices, said stores are working with state officials to comply fully.
"We're not aware of any violations, and it is our goal to be fully compliant with state law," she said. "We take this matter very seriously."
Woodward said word spread among meth cooks in Enid that tablets could be obtained in large quantities at the store. About 97 percent of the tablets purchased by meth cooks in Enid came from the Walgreens store, Woodward said.
Soon, cooks found that most Walgreens stores were wide open, Woodward said.
The bureau probably will use a judge, instead of one of its own employees, to preside over a hearing during which the company must provide evidence it is in compliance and that its license to sell controlled drugs should not be revoked.
That hearing could be in the next few weeks.
Woodward said the bureau's goal is not to strip the license but to put the stores in compliance with the law. The fines would mainly go toward recouping the bureau's investigation costs.
Woodward said officials are still performing unannounced inspections across the state.
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