Feds Make CVS Pay Out $77.6 Million For Not Monitoring Sale Of Meth Ingredients

Federal prosecutors shook down CVS for $77.6 million because it did too little to stop meth-makers from hitting up its stores for ingredients.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports the U.S. Attorney’s Office accused the pharmacy chain of letting sales of cold medicine with pseudoephedrine get out of control. Meth makers use the chemical, along with complicated equipment you’d see on Breaking Bad, and a whole lot of love to cook up the wonder drug.

CVS agreed to pay a $75 million civil penalty for violating the Controlled Substances Act, and also had to cough up an additional $2.6 million for profits gained on selling the cold medicine as meth ingredients.

CVS Caremark CEO Thomas Ryan apologized for the meth sale in a statement:

“While this lapse occurred in 2007 and 2008 and has been addressed, it was an unacceptable breach of the company’s policies and was totally inconsistent with our values. CVS/pharmacy is unwavering in its support of the measures taken by the federal government and the states to prevent drug abuse.”

CVS to pay $77.6 million in meth case [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Pepster says:

    God forbid I be able to get Advil Cold & Sinus wihtout being treated like a pariah.

    • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

      I wonder how they handle it with that family, 20 something kids and counting…

      “No, really! It’s for my kids!! Why won’t you BELIEVE me!?!”

    • nova3930 says:

      All of that just so the Mexicans can increase the amount of meth they’re hauling across the border.

      Its quite telling that while the number of meth lab busts has gone done, arrests for possession and distribution have not….

    • Admiral_John says:

      A few years ago I drove to Missouri to visit my father and neglected to bring my allergy pills… I drove to Wal-Mart (his town doesn’t have a CVS but has a Wal-Mart, imagine that) to get some decongestant but as it was Sunday evening the pharmacist was gone and I couldn’t get anything with pseudoephedrine in it, which is the only thing that works for me.

      This whole thing pisses me off… I have to go pick up some decongestant today and will be forced to turn over my license, have it scanned and sign paperwork just to buy some freakin’ allergy medicine. Just because if I buy enough of it I could make meth, and the people who WILL use it to make meth will find other ways to obtain it. All this does is punish the legitimate consumer, just like restrictive DRM.

      • krom says:

        The problem is that we as a nation — yes, as in we the people — constantly make laws like this, often by publicly shaming our lawmakers into doing it. We make it illegal to posess certain things (in some cases, like this one, certain *amounts* of things) because of what CAN or COULD be done with them.

  2. Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

    “CVS/pharmacy is unwavering in its support of the measures taken by the federal government and the states to prevent drug abuse.”

    Sure you are. That’s why you got fined.

  3. Shappie says:

    Here in central Iowa, I walk into Walgreens for some cold medicine with pseudoephedrine . I have to show an ID and it gets recorded. There is a limit per month I can buy, and that’s total, not just from that Walgreens.

    • Tim says:

      Yes, that’s how stores are supposed to do it. CVS, it seems, didn’t do that.

    • jesirose says:

      That’s how it is supposed to be everywhere. The problem was probably CVS not following that rule.

    • TakingItSeriously is a Technopile says:

      Gods I WISH I could do that!!!

      Here in Oregon I need a frigging perscription for Pseudoephedrine. It’s really the best decongestant I have ever used, and living in a pollen rich environment it’s a godsend. My Dr. won’t give my wife or I more than 3 refills before we need to schedule another visit, and ask for a new one.

    • oldwiz65 says:

      I used to buy a similar medicine here in Mass, and now if I want to buy it I have to produce my driver’s license and they scan it and it says “you’ve purchased xx grams out of your monthly allowance of yy grams”(more or less). sheesh.

  4. lvixen says:

    If you read the article, you would see this a fine for the year 2007 & 2008. The rules have changed dramatically from then. You sell it without the restrictions, you get fined, you restrict sales, you get people who complain. Tough fence to sit on.

  5. guymandude says:

    “…along with complicated equipment you’d see on Breaking Bad, …” Uhhh…. wrong. You can make meth with nothing more than a plastic soda bottle, some carburator cleaner and cold medicine.

  6. FatLynn says:

    I used to work for a company that distributed, among other things, OTC drugs. When the DEA put new regulations in place, that company decided it would be too expensive, and just stopped carrying any of the items in question.

  7. no says:

    I haven’t been able to buy any useful antihistamines since that just-after-PATRIOT-act law was enacted. I’ve really needed them sometimes, too. But I refuse to sign my name to a list and submit to all that bullshit just to get useful OTC medications.

  8. pop top says:

    Let this serve as a reminder to everyone to figure out their state’s weekly/monthly/whatever allotment of pseudoephedrine meds and start stocking up NOW for the upcoming cold and flu season.

    Also, these measures are just as effective in stopping the production and sale of meth, just as every other completely inane and only-adversely-affects-those-of-us-who-aren’t-criminals War on Drugs (TM) legislation has been.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I’ve heard you can get a prescription for it and bypass the annoying monthly limits.

      • pop top says:

        Yes but then you’d have to pay a co-pay for a doctor visit (and that’s if you have insurance, otherwise you’d have to pay the full fee) on top of whatever for the Rx. That’s ridiculous to have to do.

    • Powerlurker says:

      Actually, the restrictions have had a major effect on small scale meth production in the US, which considering the environmental nightmare that backyard meth labs can be, doesn’t strike me as that bad of an outcome.

      • pop top says:

        So even though this map shows the number of “meth lab incidents” are on the rise again in most states over the last few years, somehow that means that the number of meth labs have gone down? Obviously the numbers went down right after the law went into effect, but its also obvious that it hasn’t stopped it and in fact, the number of labs are growing again.


    • RvLeshrac says:

      Uh, if you start “stocking up,” and purchasing the limit each month, local LEOs and the DEA will be knocking at your door.

      You don’t have to go over the limit, you merely have to generate “suspicious” statistics in the recording system.

  9. Doubts42 says:

    “CVS Caremark CEO Thomas Ryan apologized for the meth sale in a statement:”

    What a crock of shit Phil. he apologized for not following some guidelines. CVS never sold meth, they sold cold medicine. I can buy fertilizer in bulk at Home depot, and diesel from the gas station on the corner, do they have to apologize for selling bombs?
    This whole panic over folks making meth is stupid. the idiots brewing bathtub meth are a self correcting segment of society, they are either going to blow themselves sky high, get murdered for the drug or it’s profits, or waste away. No need to make me suffer through a cold without any decent medication just to save these losers from themselves.

    • dolemite says:

      I concur whole heartedly. This is nothing more than big brother overstepping his bounds, yet again.

      There are any number of things you can buy that result in bombs, drugs, weapons, poisons, etc. We don’t need the federal government telling us we can’t buy cold medicine.

    • ElizabethD says:

      Seriously. This is crazy. Give the people their decongestants, dammit!

  10. TheGreenMnM says:

    Why can’t everyone just let natural selection work it’s magic?

  11. Rocket says:

    The last time I bought Sudafed, I got ID’d and I had to sign a waver.

    • Rocket says:


    • Anakela says:

      yep- I’ve been sick this week, and not only did I experience the Sudafed “we have to make sure you’re not making meth” carding and waiver signing, I also got the “we have to make sure you’re not a Robotripping teenager” carding when I bought *cough syrup* the next day. It has obviously been a while since I’ve been sick- since when do places card for cough syrup??

      I’m going to stock up now (as much as it’s possible to stock up) for this winter’s cold and flu season.

  12. lettucefactory says:

    I really, really hate CVS for a variety of good reasons. But they should not have to apologize and pay a fine for selling a legal product to paying customers.

  13. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    As someone with frequent sinus problems, I have to say I hate being treated like a criminal when buying my generic sudafed. In my area, pharmacies still don’t have the system down pat and a very simple transaction can take a half hour. I’m also not a fan of some mysterious government database out there tracking my sinus problems.

  14. ElizabethD says:

    The last several times I’ve bought Mucinex-D at CVS, they scanned my driver’s license at the pharmacy counter before they would give it to me. I think I had to sign something, too. (Please don’t tell me they can’t do it. I don’t care! I had pneumonia and bronchitis, and needed that sh*t stat.) Sort of like filling a prescription for a controlled substance such as an ADD med.

    • JayPhat says:

      Actually, they HAVE to do it in that case since it’s federal law. Now if it was your CC and they asked for ID…..

  15. SharkD says:

    As someone who has worked, with law enforcement (amongst others) on counterterorrism, and therefore had to dabble, slightly in the topic of the international narcotic trade, the asinine regulation of products containing pseudoephedrine has not in any way, shape, or form curtailed the production, use or sale of methamphetamine within the United States.

    In fact, it’s done the opposite: it created a new market for bulk pseudoephedrine, so it’s now simpler and cheaper to buy large quantities of pure pseudoephedrine in bulk from the Mexican cartels, than it ever was to buy cold and allergy medication. As a result, meth is now cheaper and more available than ever, especially in the Midwest and Southwest U.S., where meth use has seen the most growth.

    The only people, that I know of, who have been jailed for buying an excess of their monthly ‘allotment’ of OTC pseudoephedrine medications are a couple of housewives and a grandmother, all of whom made multiple purchases for sick family members over the course of a single month. (Note that retailers won’t prevent you from buying more than the law ‘permits;’ instead you’ll get a knock on the door from your friendly neighborhood sheriff about three months later, who will be dropping by to borrow some sugar and serve an arrest warrant.)

    • Tim says:

      You need, to learn how to use, commas properly.

      Also, any evidence of this? Or just, anecdotal?

    • banndndc says:

      woo hoo way to go Congress. so glad you were there to protect us from ourselves.

    • cheezfri says:

      My first thought was “If I buy too much Sudafed and the feds show up at my house, let ’em search the place.” But then I remembered I make homemade soap, lotions, etc. and there are some pretty funky chemicals in my basement…

    • Powerlurker says:

      If all the restrictions have done is shift meth production from bathtub meth cooks to Mexican superlabs, I consider that a positive outcome. Small scale meth labs are environmental nightmares that can cause problems for the whole neighborhood as well as anyone unfortunate enough to buy the properties later on.

  16. PlatoFunFactory says:

    Gee, I wonder where CVS is going to get that $77.6 million to pay that fine? Maybe from…consumers? Well, at least we know our hard-earned dollars will be going toward more fantastic federal policies aimed at keeping moms who have colds from buying Sudafed and Advil Cold and Sinus on the same shopping trip!

  17. Blueskylaw says:

    “While this lapse occurred in 2007 and 2008”

    So this was one long continuous 2 year lapse?

  18. JayPhat says:

    I’m glad this can’t happen now. Since they’ve instituted the MethCheck system, the register does all the calculations for you and retains all your info in case you try to buy it at another CVS (PRO-TIP: what stops these people from going to every pharmacy in town and buy they’re daily legal limit?) This was a fine from back when the law was implemented and everything was being done with pencil and paper. Which reminds me of the story in Indiana where the grandmother was arrested 6 months later for buying too much PSE in one month at a pharmacy that was keeping paper records. Thank god that grandmother was arrested. She had all the tell tale signs of a meth head, with her clean appearance, and all her teeth still.

  19. The Porkchop Express says:

    If I can buy only one or two a month, and my buddy can buy only one or two a month…how long before we can save up enough to make meth?

    Just sayin’ the law won’t stop the meth makers from making meth.

  20. backbroken says:

    I for one find it hard to complain about the new OTC rules because since they were put into place, meth use has really plummeted.
    BWAAA HAAA HAAAAA!!!!!! Of course it hasn’t! Almost got you that time.

  21. u1itn0w2day says:

    This isn’t just about trying to keeping everday products from being abused by the drug culture this is just another step twards complete and total tracking of your existence much like that of a shark being tagged on the Discovery channel for ‘research’ reasons.

    Treat the meth heads like the criminals they are when they lie,cheat,steal,spaz out or kill rather than screw the society the junkies are already screwing. It’s laws like this is why you see cold medicine on Ebay.

    Can CVS or any other retailer for that matter ENSURE the privacy and security or your private information.

    Rather than appease the granny voters or exploit the pitty of parents of drug addicts the DEA/feds need to actually do their job like investigate rather than wait for the leads to be handed to them on a silver platter.

  22. Winfield says:

    In Oregon we have to have a prescription to get it at all, and it’s more expensive because it’s treated as a prescription medicine. And my insurance won’t cover it for some reason now. The last time I had to buy some allergy medicine, it cost me around $60 after the doctors copay and having the rx filled.

    This is totally lowest common denominator that we have to be treated like criminals just to get a damn decongestant.

  23. ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:


    Who cares? The DEA has been trying to stop meth makers by banning ingredients for years. It’s futile. You can’t outlaw chemicals. Not because then all chemicals will be outlaws or some other pithy bit of pseudo-wisdom; because banning or controlling specific substances doesn’t stop meth makers from going elsewhere, and just inconveniences everyone else in the process.

    Besides, there are ways to make meth out of the non-controlled substitute anyway, if you have the know-how.

  24. krom says:

    That’s all well and good except that pseudoephedrine is the most effective and least adversely reactive OTC (literally in this case!) decongestant on the market. It’s retarded bastard cousin, phenylephrine, which is what they now put in store-shelf decongestants, works like crap.

    My doctor told me to take three doses of pseudoephedrine a day. That means I need two 48-ct boxes a month. If they want to give me a hard time about it they can take it up with my doctor.

    (I constantly have to insist to Rite Aid pharmacy workers that yes, I *can* buy two boxes. The best is when they are out of 48 ct boxes and only have 24 ct ones, and again try to tell me I can only get one box. Math is hard, even for trained experts!)

  25. AllanG54 says:

    Have a friend of mine whose brother lives in a condo in Hollywood, Fl. The scum next door were making meth and blew themselves and the brother’s condo up. He had to move out for four months until the place was rebuilt. Was tough because he’s mentally handicapped. The dopes next door were arrested.

  26. TacomaRogue says:

    People who make and/ or use meth will find a way to beat the system, no matter what the system is. For example, a few years back my youngest sister used meth for a while and she happens to have sever alergies. She was able to get an unlimited perscription for psudophed, which she turned over to her dealer who also made the meth. He had about 40 people doing the same thing. If people want it bad enough, they will find a way to get it, or move onto a drug that is easier to get.

  27. starxplor says:

    Next, they will limit bars to serving only 3 beers per night, because of “how many drunk drivers we can stop”.
    I say Frak This! I am not a criminal and should not be treated as such because other people do wrong.

  28. Peacock (Now In Extra Crispy) says:

    I ran into this when I tried to buy Sudafed for my daughter, who was suffering (and I mean suffering) with the swine flu in the summer of 2009. I went to CVS and I had to jump through so many hoops, it was pathetic.

    One package of Sudafed. ONE! I for sure wasn’t going to be tweaking in my kitchen in Encino. Not no way, not no how.

    I hate CVS. (Not because of this–other reasons)/ I’m only sorry that the fine wasn’t $77.5bn.

  29. Rose says:

    The sad part is that the meth heads have now come up with a way to make meth with less equipment, and the legal amount of meth that you can purchase. Do you think they’re going to nix the laws now that they no longer matter? Hell, no.

    Yay, America!

  30. Xin says:

    I remember having a very brutal sinus infection one day (we are talking nasty running nose, puffed up eyes, sore throat, hard of hearing, and flushed face). After not being able to sleep all night at 5 a.m. I HAD ENOUGH and made a trip to walmart for some sudafed. Guess what?…. in my sinus infection deluded mind I forgot to bring my driver’s license, and was denied my request. Okay I can agree with your policy. No biggie.

    Local CVS – same story.

    Remember you can look at me and see that I am physically ill. By this point I start coughing and sneezing.

    Just have to bless the woman at Krogers Grocery. I grab only sudafed, make my way to her register, and lay my head down on the little stand for writing checks on. I mumble “dunthawwa-idee” (dont have i.d.). She said “your sick huh?” Me: “yep, and i’m sorry i forgot my license. All i want to do it take this and pass out” (still with my head laying on the stand). She simply asked my b-day to bypass the computer system – gave me a halls cough drop from her pocket – and told me to get better soon.

    Thank you wonderful cashier at krogers!