The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) [official website] announced [press release] Thursday that CVS Pharmacy [corporate website] has agreed to pay a $75 million fine for sales of pseudoephedrine to individuals who used that compound to produce methamphetamine [NIDA backgrounder, PDF]. In addition to the $75 million fine, CVS will also forfeit the profits from those sales, an additional $2.6 million. Under the Combat Methamphetamine Act of 2005 [materials; summary, PDF], individuals are limited to purchases of 3.6 grams of ephedrine-based compounds per day. According to the DEA, CVS allowed violations of this limit on "thousands" of occasions throughout the Southwestern US. In a statement, CVS said that the lapses that allowed the violations to occur were serious, but that because of improved "handling and monitoring of pseudoephedrine," such lapses would not happen again [press release]. Under the agreement with the DEA, CVS will not face criminal liability for the violations.
The production and use of methamphetamine has become one of the most significant public health issues in the US over the past 40 years. Originally a problem localized to the Western US, an epidemic of use has spread eastward [MSNBC report] over the past decade, bringing with it the associated dangers of production [EPA report, PDF]. As the popularity of methamphetamine has grown, Congress has sought to control proliferation with a number of pieces of legislation, including the Comprehensive Methamphetamine Control Act of 1996, the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act of 2000 [materials], and the Combat Methamphetamine Act of 2005. With the passage of the Combat Methamphetamine Act of 2005, pseudoephedrine-containing compounds, such as many cold medications, must be placed behind the counter, where customers cannot access the medications without assistance.