Bill Would Limit Cold Drug Sales

60 minutes drugs cold medicine
Sales of cold medicines used to make methamphetamine would be restricted under a bill that cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday after lawmakers forged a compromise protecting state privileges.

The legislation would require stores to sell Pfizer Inc.'s Sudafed, Procter & Gamble Co.'s Nyquil and other medicines containing pseudoephedrine only from behind the pharmacy counter. In makeshift labs across the country, the ingredient has been extracted and used to cook meth.

Consumers would have to show a photo ID, sign a log, and be limited to 7.5 grams — or about 250, 30-milligram pills — in a 30-day period. Computer tracking would prevent customers from exceeding the limit at other stores, according to the bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Jim Talent, R-Mo.

Authorities said Thursday that Walgreen Co. agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle claims it broke state and federal laws by failing to monitor sales of over-the-counter cold medicine that can be used to make methamphetamine. The company also agreed to spend $1 million to monitor purchases of the medicine. It did not admit to any wrongdoing.

The Feinstein-Talent measure had been stalled in committee for several weeks over concerns that it could stop states from enacting their own rules on cold medicine sales. It was modeled after an Oklahoma law that took effect last year, and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., complained it could interfere with his state's rules.

The bill was approved by voice vote after lawmakers accepted an amendment by Coburn that would allow states to adopt and enforce their own rules.

Another amendment, by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, would delay the implementation date of the legislation until Jan. 1, 2007, for products containing pseudoephedrine in combination with other ingredients. For products in which pseudoephedrine is the only active ingredient, the restrictions would take effect 90 days after enactment.