CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Rite Aid will pay $4 million for improper sales of pseudoephedrine, a key methamphetamine ingredient, as part of a settlement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in West Virginia’s Southern District.
U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart called it a “just result” during an appearance on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
“Rite Aid was criminally reckless in their sale of pseudoephedrine by not taking the necessary steps to prevent the sale of pseudoephedrine to known or suspected abusers,” Stuart said.
“They have an absolute responsibility, a criminally negligent responsibility, for the sale of those products.”
Specifically at issue were Rite Aid’s training and corporate procedures for such sales of medications used legitimately to relieve congestion.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Rite Aid’s established procedures led employees in West Virginia’s Southern District to believe they could only deny sales of products containing pseudoephedrine if such sales would put individual customers over purchase limit amounts.
In fact, sales could be refused in cases where employees suspected customers wanted the medications for illegitimate reasons, including for meth manufacturing.
“This was a very serious matter,” Stuart said. “Had we not reached settlement, we would have indicted and we would have pushed forward (from there).”
The settlement includes the “full acceptance of responsibility” on the part of Rite Aid which, Stuart said, cooperated with the investigation.
Rite Aid has already started implementing remedial efforts to address the issues raised.
For example, in Nov. 2013, Rite Aid removed single ingredient pseudoephedrine from stores and now only sells the single ingredient formulations in tamper-resistant forms.
Rite Aid workers are also trained to identify customers who may be purchasing the medication for meth. Pharmacists are required to provide counseling to those purchasing pseudoephedrine products. Such products have also been moved out of customer view.
“Although we are in an opioid crisis and meth is not part of that crisis, meth is and remains a serious, serious challenge here in West Virginia and across the country,” Stuart said.
“It’s incredibly important that we do all we can to prevent folks from using these substances improperly to make meth.”
The $4 million settlement amount equals 80 percent of Rite Aid’s gross sales of pseudoephedrine in West Virginia during the identified time period, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Stuart said all of the money will be staying in the Mountain State with $2.6 million dedicated to the West Virginia Crime Victims Compensation Fund along with $1.4 million for the state Department of Health and Human Resources for substance use disorder treatment.