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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Beginning today in Kansas, cold tablets containing an ingredient used in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine must be off the shelves and behind the pharmacy counter.
A report in the Kansas City Star says that tablets containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, such as Sudafed or Actifed, also must be removed from convenience stores and grocery stores without pharmacies. Gel-coated starch capsules must be removed, too.
“If you don't have a pharmacy, everything comes off the shelves except gelcaps and liquids,” said Jim Sheehan, executive director of the Kansas Food Dealers Association.
It's all part of a new law aimed at people who are illegally extracting ephedrine from these tablets and producing methamphetamine, a highly addictive and illegal drug. Restricting access to the starch tablets, according to supporters, will make it harder for these “meth cooks” to produce the drug.
The first state to adopt this approach was Oklahoma more than a year ago. Officials there said the number of illegal meth labs was cut by more than half.
So far, 16 states have approved laws similar to Oklahoma's, including every state surrounding Kansas. Several bills have been introduced in Congress.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius signed the Kansas law in April, and a similar bill in Missouri only needs the signature of Gov. Matt Blunt, a proponent, to become law. Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska signed that state's measure Tuesday.
According to the newspaper, the Kansas law requires a customer wanting to purchase the tablets to go to the pharmacy window and show a photo ID. They must sign a log book indicating how much was purchased and the date. The entry must then be initialed by a pharmacist, student intern or pharmacy technician.
No one younger than 18 will be allowed to buy these products.
The law allows customers to buy three packages of tablets a week, equal to 9 grams a month, which lawmakers said should be enough for people who need the medication. Law enforcement officials said meth cooks need a much larger amount to make even small doses of the drug.
Many of the large chain stores, such as Wal-Mart, Walgreens and Target, placed these medications behind their pharmacy counters long before the Kansas law took effect.
Sheehan, of the Kansas Food Dealers Association, said replacement products for those taken off the shelves are on the way. For example, Sudafed's manufacturer has already introduced a new product, Sudafed PE, which does not contain ephedrine.
“By the time the next cold season rolls around, there will be more of them,” he said.